The year was 1972. I was moving up from my associate degree at Norwalk Community College to complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of New Haven. It was an exciting time in my life. I enrolled in my junior year classes that fall. Little did I realize that the course I signed up for last-minute, Introduction to Music, would open before me an incredible path of music discovery and direction.
The music teacher started our class by playing sitar in the middle of the room for 30 minutes as he welcomed us to world music and eastern influences. He went on to articulate what he had been taught and experienced as a student himself at Wesleyan University. I was so hooked on what he had to say to us that morning. I decided right then and there that I would minor in music. I took six music classes at UNH, all ably taught by world music professors and alumni of Wesleyan University.
One recording we heard often in my first music class was Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame. The record grew on me as we were permitted uninterrupted, meditative listens during class. I had never heard music so powerfully stated yet so eloquently executed. If it wasn’t for this music class, I may have never discovered jazz rock/fusion at its core from Mahavishnu Orchestra.
I listen to The Inner Mounting Flame 41 years later, still intrigued by its rich textures, that machine gun guitar from John McLaughlin and the powerful drumming of Billy Cobham. The layered effect of Jerry Goodman on violin, coupled with the driving bass and sharp tones by Jan Hammer. A once in a lifetime collaboration. My favorite song on this recording is, “You Know, You Know”.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra followed The Inner Mounting Flame with Birds of Fire. I didn’t think it was possible for jazz rock/fusion from The Mahavishnu Orchestra to soar any higher. It took off for the stratosphere on Birds of Fire. I did my college term paper (which I so wish I still had somewhere) on Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. He afforded me a wonderful interview from his Jamaica Queens apartment. We recorded it on high-end reel to reel on a Scully Tape system at the WNHU-FM radio station. Alas that has been lost to me too, sigh.
Thankfully I saw The Mahavishnu Orchestra live at Staples High School in the summer of 1973. They were very skillful in their concert. I can still visualize John McLaughlin arched to the heavens playing the double neck guitar. I can also see Billy Cobham playing behind his massive plexiglass drum kit.