Steve Kindler's Cadenza on Pastoral from "Visions of the Emerald Beyond"

Anyone who has ever checked out The Mahavishnu Orchestra's fourth studio album, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, knows that it is one of the heaviest jazz-rock violin records ever. By 1975 the original band had already split up (bad vibes) and Jerry Goodman's departure made way for Jean-Luc Ponty's brief occupation of the violin chair. This was the record that, in large part, introduced the world to the sound of Ponty's amplified "baritone" violin, the iconic swirling violin phaser effect, and the debut of JLP's love affair with the Echoplex.

There was another violinist waiting in the wings. His name was Steven Kindler and he was a hot-shot American classical prodigy type who, as a high school-er, became obsessed with the early Mahavishnu recordings. He hadn't studied jazz but had learned to improvise by copying the solos by John McLaughlin and, especially, keyboardist Jan Hammer. It is rumored that he approached John McLaughlin by saying, "Hi, my name is Steven Kindler and I can play all of your music better than your other violinist." So, you get the picture. It must have chapped his ass to sit by and watch Ponty shredding in the violin chair. However, he did get one shot: a cadenza at the end of the String Quartet feature Pastoral.

Steven was clearly prepared for this moment. His cadenza is in a key that is unfamiliar to most violinists, Ab minor, and he starts with something that the composers for the X-Files clearly ripped off before he transitions to the next mode. From there on out you get a well-conceived, if not overly spontaneous, hybrid of a Western classical violin cadenza with obvious Carnatic influences. In it you will find techniques such as flying spiccato, double harmonics, and one-finger melodic flourishes. I would advise the acquisition of this recording before you attempt to play it because the tempo is rubato and you need to hear the drone (or shruti/sruti) played by the string quartet to fully feel the vibe and concept.