Mitchel Forman is probably most known for his exceptional work with John McLaughlin’s legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra of the eighties. He has an exceptional solo career as well, releasing some fantastic records (“Patience”, “Mr.Clean” ) as well as collaborating with Chuck Loeb on Metro project for a couple of decades. In fact, Metro just released its sixth record, entitled “Express” . Mitch has been one the most sought after studio musicians in New York, working with a multitude of gifted artists such as Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Mike Stern. Mitch joined McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu and spent a year and a half on the road with John, recording and contributing to two of the band’s benchmark recordings – the seminal “Mahavishnu” and “Adventures in Radioland”. I recently caught up with Mitch who currently resides in Los Angeles.
AL: Congratulations on the new record. “Express” is the sixth record from Metro. Could you talk a bit about the music on this album and how it compares with the previous releases?
MF: This CD is fusion music from many different angles. Firstly, the fusion of the wide variety of styles that Chuck, Wolfgang, Will, and myself bring to the project. The combined list of performance and production credits of the musicians is quite extensive and ever growing and all of those experiences somehow get thrown into the collective Metro soup. Secondly, it is our version of “fusion” music based on our love of the music of the classic fusion era. I believe it continues along the path of our previous releases. I had the luxury of having a lot of time to work on these tracks and am quite proud of the results.
AL: How have your musical relationship been with Chuck Loeb?
MF: I’ve known Chuck for quite awhile. We played together with Stan Getz around 1981-83. I knew him a few years before that when we were both living in NYC. Over the years we’ve shared many musical and personal experiences. We also played with Bill Evans on the great “Petite Blonde” recording. I consider him one of my closest friends and we have a great time making these Metro records.
AL:Will Lee performs on this one as well. What made you decide? Will to be on this collaboration?
MF: Will has been a friend of Chuck, Wolfgang, and myself forever. His name came up as an option and everyone just screamed, “yeah”. He brought a whole lot to this project; playing wonderfully, singing a bit, and writing a few tunes as well. I remembered the other day that Will and I were together on a great Gary Burton / Pat Metheny CD, “Reunion”.
AL: You have a great catalog of your own releases as well, “Mr.Clean”, “Patience” among others. Could you elaborate on your own releases as well and musically how it differs from Metro releases.
MF: My own releases lean more towards a traditional jazz approach. “Patience” is piano trio ; “Mr. Clean”, a live quintet with two horns. Last year I put out “Perspectives”, which is my treatments of my favorite compositions of others like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin. Etc. I think the Metro project leans more towards contemporary grooves, while my stuff is a bit more old school.
AL: Have you had the opportunity to see the newly released Montreux video with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 84? Amazing playing from all you guys!! How was Mahavishnu, looking back at it almost 24 years ago?
MF: I’m afraid to see what I was wearing in 84. I haven’t seen that DVD yet. I have great memories of those times with John and the boys. Just to get to hear John rip it up every night was amazing. I guess I have to check out that DVD soon.
AL: I heard that you have been performing with Frank Gambale and Virgil Donati as well. What’s going on musically with that?
MF: For the last few years, I’ve been doing some live gigs with Virgil Donati and some different groups that he is a part of. I went to India with Virgil, Bunny Brunel and Frank Gambale last year. Also playing with CAB with Virgil, Bunny, and Tony McAlpine, as well as some of Virgil’s gigs. A lot of high energy gigs and some challenging music.
AL: What do you have plans in the future?
MF: I have been performing monthly at the Baked Potato with my own band and would like to record that group soon. I’m working on writing some new music. A busy year coming up for the original Metro quartet, as well as an expanded version of Metro with Randy Brecker, Eric Merinthal, and Dave Weckl, with some European and US tours coming up.