JJ 04/74: John McLaughlin – Between Nothingness And Eternity

Fifty years ago Steve Voce thought the guitarist's latest release an outstanding jazz record despite its rock content. First published in Jazz Journal April 1974


As I write Ian Hammer and Jerry Goodman have left this group, Cobham has formed his own band and McLaughlin is rehearsing a new Mahavishnu Orch­estra in Florida and won’t as yet disclose who’s in it. That means that this is the last album by this band, and one has doubts as to whether any new group can be as good.

Pinned by Cobham’s in­cisive drumming, flexed by Ham­mer’s imaginative piano work, McLaughlin’s guitar here seems in its element. This, and not the world of Miles Davis, is the place for McLaughlin’s kind of jazz. Make no mistake that this is jazz of a very high order indeed, and anyone who misses out on McLaughlin’s conceptions is los­ing much more than they think.

I haven’t written about the band since its first record, and now here it is with its last. A fit­ting farewell, because it’s quit­ting at the top. You couldn’t bet­ter this beautiful matching of rhythms – at one time Tomor­row’s Story bucketing along like a steam train with McLaughlin and Goodman in ferocious duet, and at another switching to sounds of gentleness and beauty as in the incredible Dream. Dream has a Blues In C Sharp Minor—like figure and demon­strates so effectively McLaugh­lin’s superb spacing of things. Laird sets the figure and Mc­Laughlin plays intricate and vir­tuoso patterns over him, spilling out sounds from everything from Shankar to Christian and back again. Cobham lashes the drums and mayhem rides in an intense jumble of sounds and rhythms with an amazing number of voices seeming to come from a quite small combination of instruments.

Many readers may think that this is rock music, and it certain­ly comes in the area where jazz and rock come together. But it is perfectly valid as jazz music, and while I would caution the suspic­ious to hear it before buying it, I would urge you very much to hear it, because it’s an outstand­ing record—an outstanding jazz record.

Trilogy; The Sunlight Path; La Mère De La Mer; Tomorrow’s Story Not The Same; Sister Andrea (21 min) – Dream (21½ min)
The Mahavishnu Orchestra: John McLaugh­lin (gtr); Ian Hammer (elec-pno/Moog); Jerry Goodman (vln); Rick Laird (bs); Billy Cobham (dm). Central Park, NY, August 1973.
(CBS 69046 £2.45)