Two top jazz bands Mothers & John McLaughlin come to Kent

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Scene, 26 April 1973

Two top-notch jazz-rock bands led by two top-notch guitarists will appear in concert May 1 at Kent State University. Frank Zappa’s new band of Mothers and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra will headline the show at KSU’s Memorial Gym.

That Zappa is a talented guitarist, composer and arranger is undeniable. He is a precise and meticulous musician. Over the years amidst and amongst the comedy albums he’s most known for, he’s produced some serious and high-class music. His continuing explorations into jazz-rock, from HOT RATS to GRAND WAZOO, have been consistently refreshing.

Since the break-up of the Flo & Eddie edition of the Mothers, Zapph has released two fine jazz albums, WAKA/JAWAKA and GRAND WAZOO, the latter being the product of a short-lived big band jazz experiment. However, Zappa’s present band, if it’s the same one that came through Columbus a few months back, could be the most talented grouping of musicians he has ever gathered behind him.

That band included Ian Underwood (sax), Jean Luc Ponty (violin) and George Duke (keyboards), all of whom are excellent musicians. Underwood has been with Zappa since the original Mothers. Ponty is one of the finest jazz violinists in the world and his hard-to-get album, KING KONG, is the best version of that Zappa composition any jazz musician has done. Duke, formerly of Cannonball Adderly’s band, worked with Zappa before on 200 MOTELS and GRAND WAZOO.

Don’t come to see Zappa if you’re not prepared for some serious music. The “Mud Shark” Mothers are a thing of the past, at least for now. Zappa is into a serious and distinctive sojourn into jazz.

McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra are also a distinctive and talented band. The concerts they present are an unrelenting, physically exhausting attack on the audience.

A lot has been said about McLaughlin’s work in the band, but he is far from the only reason to hear them. Much of the drive the Mahavishnu Orchestra puts out owes itself to Billy Cobham, who is among the finest drummers in any genre.

Bassist Rick Laird, violinist Jerry Goodman, and Jan Hammer on keyboards also contribute a great deal to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s distinctive jazz-rock hybrid.