Dissatisfied with the various rock groups he had been touring with Hellborg turned to more challenging music and solo concerts. In 1981 he was invited to play at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Michael Brecker was impressed by Hellborg's playing there and introduced him to many of the jazz greats, including his longtime idol John McLaughlin. Hellborg sent McLaughlin some of his music. Later in 1981 Michael Brecker invited Jonas to New York to open for Steps at several club dates.
Upon his return from the United States, Hellborg was approached by percussion great Reebop Kwaku Baah of Traffic fame. The two worked for a year in London on a recording project that was halted by Reebop's tragic death in the latter part of 1982. Hellborg completed the final mixes of this release entitled "Melodies in a Jungle Man's Head." In 1982, Hellborg created his own record company - Day Eight Music, in order to allow himself and others to record while enjoying full artistic freedom.
In 1983, Hellborg recorded his first solo album entitled "Elegant Punk." In May of 1983 Hellborg joined forces with pianist Michael J. Smith and drummer Michael Shrieve (of 'Santana' fame) and recorded an album entitled "All Our Steps." Shortly after this, John McLaughlin invited Hellborg to join the reforming Mahavishnu Orchestra. The group's first performance was on a television show in Paris where McLaughlin and Hellborg played in trio with Billy Cobham on drums. Early 1984 saw the additions of saxman Bill Evans and keyboardist Mitchell Forman and the group released the album entitled "Mahavishnu." Eventually ex-Metheny drummer Danny Gottlieb replaced Billy Cobham and Mahavishnu Orchestra made two world tours.
In 1985, McLaughlin and Hellborg started playing duet concerts. In an effort to explore a different musical mood the two created an intimate chamber music kind of jazz-funk that was almost classical in its texture. Additionally, in 1985 Hellborg recorded his second solo album "Axis" with Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, singer Bernard Fowler and drummer Anton Fier.
1986 saw the release of the next Mahavishnu album (recorded in Milan) and another world tour. In 1987, the McLaughlin-Hellborg duo toured throughout Japan, Europe and the United States.
In 1988, McLaughlin and Hellborg invited percussionist Trilok Gurtu to form a trio with them. This group toured the United States. After this tour, Hellborg left the trio to form his own band. The Jonas Hellborg Group with keyboard player Jens Johansson and drummer Anders Johansson from Yngwie Malmsteen's band. This group toured Europe and has plans to record in the future. During this time, Hellborg moved to New York where he has performed on records with Ginger Baker and Bill Laswell and Material. He has composed a work entitled "The Word" which has just been recorded with Tony Williams and co-produced by Bill Laswell. This latest album is forthcoming from Axiom Records, distributed by Mango Records.
-- Kenneth Rasmusson