After the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s line-up was completed and John McLaughlin's new, complex music was rehearsed, the band debuted as the opening act for John Lee Hooker in mid-1971. The old bluesman will not have known what struck him, six days in a row at the Gaslight at the au Go Go, a concert hall that would close down just a year later. The band would write history with groundbreaking odd-meter jazz rock, performed by five virtuoso and inspired artists: except guitarist/composer John McLaughlin and keyboardist Jan Hammer, the Panamese powerdrummer Billy Cobham (ex Horace Silver, ex Miles Davis), the American folk rock and jazz fusion violinist Jerry Goodman (ex the Flock, who joined on the recommendation of the 'President of Columbia Records', Clive Ray Davis, instead of the envisaged but prevented violinist Jean Luc Ponty) and finally the Irish bassist Rick Laird (former contrabassist of Brian Auger’s Trinity, who replaced the preferred but prevented Tony Levin, known from King Crimson).
The Mahavishnu Orchestra developed in a short time into an internationally acclaimed top act, "receiving its initial acclaim for its complex, intense music consideration of a blend of Indian classical music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and its dynamic live performances between 1971 and 1973". Two impressive studio albums appeared, Inner Mounting Flame and Birds Of Fire, and the live album Between Nothingness and Eternity, the only one with a composition by Jan Hammer, named after his sister Andrea, a song he had already played in 1971 with Reig and Bolin.
The keyboardist thrilled audiences with mind-blowing solos on the effects-distorted Fender Rhodes, (that he always played with the lid open), as well as on the newly developed Mini Moog synthesizer, regardless of the strange meters and keys the pieces were built upon. It was his way of playing from those years that had a great influence on other emerging synthesizer virtuosos, such as Benoît Widemann (Lockwood, Magma, Stivell), Max Middelton (Jeff Beck, Kate Bush) and Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Project and Steven Wilson). In 1972 the remaining tracks and out-takes of his projects with Elvin and Steig were also published (Mr. Jones and Fusion), of course because Hammer was hot & cooking.
The well selling and extensively touring working band led by the dominant McLaughlin, went apart in 1973. According to interviews from that period, they did not part as friends. Loosely translated, Jan Hammer regretted that the music had changed into something to impress with rather than something that should be played. Later he would compare the band to a 'pressure cooker' [Synthopia.com]. The new recordings that were made landed on the shelves until they were finally released many years later: The Lost Trident Sessions (1999) and Unreleased Tracks From Between Nothingness & Eternity (2011).