Mahavishnu Orchestra: Lila's Dance
Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Columbia CK 46867)
Bob Knapp (horns), Russell Tubbs (sax), Gayle Moran (keyboards), Steven Kindler, Carol Shive (violins), Phillip Hirschi (cello), Ralphe Armstrong (bass).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: New York, December 1974
Rating: 99/100 (learn more)
So, it's 1992 and I am watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It is time for a commercial. Then I hear Branford Marsalis's Tonight Show band play the opening measures of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Lila's Dance." This can't be. I must be dreaming. Am I hearing Mahavishnu on national television? Yes! It turns out that Branford was a huge fan. His guitarist Kevin Eubanks was, too. In fact, in high school, Kevin's nickname was "Mahavishnu." The band would later also play Mahavishnu's "Meeting of the Spirits." Thanks to Branford, these tunes were being resurrected nearly 20 years after they first appeared. This rekindled a spark of interest in Mahavishnu among old and new fans that has grown into a steady flame today.
"Lila's Dance" is an ode to "The Dance of Maya" from the Mahavishnu's first album The Inner Mounting Flame. A short piano statement is made. Unlike "Maya," the opening guitar arpeggios are very gentle and sweeping. Ponty plays a reverberating solo above them. It floats. The string section beautifully restates the theme. Then without warning, much like on "Maya," a rocked-out blues interrupts the proceedings. This is one serious groove, every bit worthy of anything the original band did. McLaughlin's tone is tubular, sounding as if it was coming straight out of a hot iron pipe. Walden and Armstrong are funk-masters. This was Mahavishnu Mark II, as some called the band, at its best.
By the way, the people who ran the Tonight Show were scared by that Mahavishnu music. It wasn't long before Branford was out of a job.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky