John McLaughlin

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Extrapolation (1969), 7/10
My Goals Beyond (1970), 7/10
Devotion (1970), 6/10
The Inner Mounting Flame (1971), 7.5/10
Birds of Fire (1972), 7/10
Between Nothingness and Eternity (1973), 6/10
Love Devotion Surrender (1973), 5/10
Apocalypse (1974), 7/10
Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1974), 5/10
Inner Worlds (1975), 5/10
Shakti (1975), 6.5/10
A Handful of Beauty (1976), 5.5/10
Natural Elements (1977), 5/10
Friday Night in San Francisco (1980), 5/10
Belo Horizonte (1981), 5.5/10
Passion, Grace and Fire (1982), 5/10
Music Spoken Here (1982), 5.5/10
Mahavishnu (1984), 5/10
Adventures in Radioland (1986), 5/10
Mediterranian Concerto (1988), 5.5/10
Live at the Royal Festival Hall (1989), 5/10
Que Alegria (1991), 5/10
Tokyo Live (1993), 5/10
After the Rain (1994), 5/10
The Promise (1995), 5.5/10
The Heart of Things (1997), 5/10
Thieves and Poets (2002), 5.5/10
To the One (2009), 5/10
Now Here This (2011), 5/10

British guitarist John McLaughlin (1942) was a product of the same British blues revival that spawned rock groups such as the Rolling Stones and Cream. When he formed his first quartet, with soprano and baritone saxophonist John Surman, a bassist and drummer Tony Oxley, McLaughlin was already 26. His debut album, Extrapolation (january 1969), entirely composed by him but mostly driven by Surman's improvisations, was a brilliant transposition of new trends (whether free jazz or progressive-rock or post-bop melody) into the open-minded milieu of the British intelligentsia McLaughlin mesmerized both jazz and rock listeners with the crisp sound of his guitar (fitted with an electric pickup and heavy gauge strings).

The following month McLaughlin relocated to New York and joined both Miles Davis' group and Tony Williams' Lifetime.

He also composed New Old Place for Surman's contemporary Where Fortune Smiles (may 1970). His second album, My Goal's Beyond (march 1971), declared his passion for Indian music (Peace One and Peace Two) and experimented with the acoustic guitar on simple melodic themes (Follow Your Heart). Devotion (february 1970) was, for all practical purposes, an album of instrumental psychedelic-rock (guitar, organ, drum and bass), with the electric guitar unleashed to produce all sorts of ferocious sound effects. Nonetheless the eleven-minute Devotion still maintained the Indian attitude.

In july 1971 McLaughlin formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, one of the premier electric fusion groups, with violinist Jerry Goodman, keyboardist Jan Hammer, electric bassist Rick Laird and drummer Billy Cobham. Despite the strong influence of Jimi Hendrix on their visceral solos and swirling rhythms, their virtuoso playing and delirious interplay created a new stereotype of fusion jazz. The Dance Of Maya and Meeting Of The Spirits, off The Inner Mounting Flame (august 1971), the ten-minute One Word, off Birds Of Fire (october 1972), the colossal The Dream, off the live Between Nothingness And Eternity (september 1973), were the most mind-bending work-outs, but many of their pieces had more to do with show business than with music. McLaughlin also vented his late-hippy spiritual enlightenment in duo with rock guitarist Carlos Santana, the cycle of devotional songs Love Devotion Surrender (march 1973). The original Mahavishnu Orchestra disbanded in 1973, but McLaughlin organized a new edition, featuring violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, that embarked in an ambitious collaboration with a symphony orchestra, Apocalypse (march 1974), arranged by Michael Gibbs. While less hyped than the early albums, this work, particularly the 20-minute Hymn To Him, was a truly innovative fusion of jazz, rock, Indian and classical elements. This edition of Mahavishnu Orchestra was terminated after the mediocre Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (december 1974) and the slightly more energetic and electronic Inner Worlds (august 1975).

McLaughlin formed the quintet Shakti with four Indian musicians (virtuoso violinist Lakshminarayana Shankar, tabla player Zakir Hussain and a mridangam player) to play acoustic music inspired to Indian music and Hindu religion, but preserving the high-octane, rocking approach of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The music decayed rapidly from the avantgarde Shakti (july 1975), with the 29-minute pseudo-raga What Need Have I For This, to the delicately melodic A Handful Of Beauty (august 1976), to the almost poppy Natural Elements (july 1977).

McLaughlin was beginning to live of nostalgy. Electric Guitarist (february 1978) was a series of collaborations with old friends. The One Truth Band replicated the format of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra (but with Lakshminarayana Shankar on violin) for Electric Dreams Electric Sighs (december 1978), but the music was electronic funk and disco.

On the other hand, McLaughlin targeted the audience of new-age music with the albums cut in collaboration with guitarist Al DiMeola and Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco DeLucia: the live Friday Night In San Francisco (december 1980) and the studio Passion, Grace And Fire (december 1982).

The most inspired McLaughling of the period was heard on the impressionistic albums Belo Horizonte (july 1981) and Music Spoken Here (july 1982), free of his Indian, rock and flamenco addictions.

McLaughlin reconstituted the Mahavishnu Orchestra one more time for Mahavishnu (may 1984), that reunited McLaughlin with Cobham, and Adventures In Radioland (february 1986), replacing Cobham with Pat Metheny's drummer Danny Gotlieb.

A new Trio with percussionist Trilok Gurtu and bassist Kai Eckhart recorded Live At The Royal Festival Hall (november 1989) and Que Alegria (december 1991).

A new project, the Free Spirits, featuring keyboardist Joey De Francesco, recorded Tokyo Live (december 1993) and After The Rain (october 1994), the latter with Elvin Jones on drums, in a retro-bop style.

Mediterranean Concerto (september 1988) debuted his Concerto for Guitar and Symphony Orchestra (1985).

The Promise (1995) was another set of random collaborations with old friends, notably tenorist Michael Brecker in the 14-minute Jazz Jungle

The Heart Of Things (1997) for a vibrant quintet (featuring saxophonist Gary Thomas and keyboardist Jim Beard) updated the concept of the Mahavishnu Orchestra to the 1990s.

His third "classical" recording, Thieves And Poets (july 2002), contained the three-movement suite Thieves And Poets for acoustic guitar and chamber orchestra.

John McLaughlin documented the 4th Dimension on To The One (november 2009): Gary Husband on keyboards, Etienne M'Bappé on electric bass and Mark Mondesir on drums. They had debuted in 2004.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Massimo Orioles)

Il chitarrista inglese John McLaughin (1942) è stato il prodotto dello stesso revisionismo blues che sfornò gruppi rock come i Rolling Stones e i Cream. Quando creò il suo primo quartetto, accompagnato da un sassofonista soprano e baritono quale John Surman e dal bassista e batterista Tony Oxley, McLaughin era già 26enne. Il suo album di debutto, Extrapolation (gennaio 1969) interamente composto da lui stesso ma per lo più dominato dalle improvvisazioni di Surman, fu una brillante trasposizione delle nuove tendenze (free jazz, progressive-rock e melodie post-bop) nello spregiudicato ambiente dell'intelligentsia Inglese. McLaughlin incantò gli amanti di jazz e rock con l'innovativo suono della sua chitarra (adattata con pickup elettrici e corde spesse).

Il mese successivo McLaughin traslocò a New York e si unì sia alla band di Mile Davis che ai Lifetime di Tony Williams

Compose inoltre New Old Place per l'album Where Fortune Smiles (maggio 1970) di Surman. Nel suo secondo album, My Goal's Beyond (marzo 1971), McLaughin rivelò la sua passione per la musica Indiana (Peace One and Peace Two) e sperimentò l'utilizzo della chitarra acustica su semplici melodie (Follow Your Heart). Devotion (febbraio 1970) fu, in ogni senso, un album di psychedelic-rock (chitarra, organo, batteria e basso), con la chitarra elettrica lasciata libera di produrre qualsiasi sorta di feroce effetto sonoro. Non per ultimo, il brano di undici minuti Devotion mantiene ancora una propensione verso la musica indiana.

Nel Luglio del 1971 McLaughlin formò la Mahavishnu Orchestra, uno dei più famosi gruppi di electric fusion, insieme al violinista Jerry Goodman, al pianista Jan Hammer, al bassista Rick Laird ed al batterista Billy Cobham. Nonostante la forte influenza Hendrixiana, constatabile nei pezzi di solo e nelle vorticose ritmiche, il loro virtuosismo e la delirante interazione creò un nuovo stereotipo di jazz fusion. The Dance Of Maya e Meeting Of The Spirits nell'album The Inner Mounting Flame (agosto 1971), il brano di dieci minuti One Word in Birds Of Fire (ottobre 1972), la colossale The Dream, nell'album live Between Nothingness And Eternity (settembre 1973) furono i più complicati esercizi di stile, anche se molti dei loro pezzi hanno da spartire molto di più con lo show business che con la musica. McLaughlin sfogò  la sua vena spirituale hippy nel duo con il chitarrista rock Carlos Santana, nel ciclo di canzoni devozionali Love Devotion Surrender (marzo 1973).

La band originale The Mahavishnu Orchestra si sciolse nel 1973, ma McLaughlin organizzò una nuova formazione che, insieme al violinista Jean-Luc Ponty, si impegnò in una ambiziosa collaborazione con un'orchestra sinfonica, e registrò Apocalypse (marzo 1974), arrangiato da Michael Gibbs. Anche se meno pubblicizzato rispetto ai precedenti album, questo lavoro, particolarmente nei 20 minuti di  Hymn To Him, fu un vero proprio esempio di una innovativa fusione tra jazz, rock, musica indiana e elementi classici. Questa nuova edizione della Mahavishnu Orchestra terminò dopo la mediocre Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (dicembre 1974) e la poco più elettronica ed energetica Inner Worlds (agosto 1975).

McLaughlin formò un quintetto insieme a quattro musicisti indiani (il virtuoso violinista Lakshminarayana Shankar,il suonatore di tabla Zakir Hussain e un musicista di mridangam) per suonare in uno stile acustico ispirato alla musica indiana e alla religione Hindu, ma mantenendo l'energia e l'approccio rock della Mahavishnu Orchestra. La musica passa rapidamente dall'avanguardia di Shakti (luglio 1975), con i 29-minute pseudo-raga di What Need Have I For This, fino alla delicata melodia di A Handful Of Beauty (agosto 1976), fino alla quasi pop Natural Elements (luglio 1977).

McLaughlin niziò così a vivere nella nostalgia:  Electric Guitarist (febbraio 1978) fu una serie di collaborazioni con vecchi amici. The One Truth Band ripropose il format dell' originale Mahavishnu Orchestra (ma con Lakshminarayana Shankar al violino) in Electric Dreams Electric Sighs (dicembre 1978), ma la musica fu per lo più di genere funk and disco.

Su un altro versante, McLaughlin riuscì attirare l'attenzione degli ascoltatori di musica new-age con  l'album composto con il chitarrista Al DiMeola ed il chitarrista di musica flamenco Paco DeLucia: il live Friday Night In San Francisco (dicembre 1980) e Passion, Grace And Fire (dicembre 1982).

Il più ispirato McLaughin del tempo fu quello dell'impressionante album Belo Horizonte (luglio 1981) e Music Spoken Here (luglio 1982), libero dalle sue influenze indiane, rock e flamenco.

McLaughlin riunì la Mahavishnu Orchestra per una volta ancora per Mahavishnu (maggio 1984), che riunì McLaughlin con Cobham, e per Adventures In Radioland (febbraio 1986), sostituendo Cobham con il batterista di Pat Metheny Danny Gotlieb.

Insieme ad un nuovo trio con il percussionista Trilok Gurtu e il bassista Kai Eckhart registrò Live At The Royal Festival Hall (novembre 1989) e Que Alegria (dicembre 1991).

Con un altro progetto, intitolato ''The Free Spirits'', in collaborazione con il pianista Joey De Francesco, registrò Tokyo Live (dicembre 1993) e After The Rain (ottobre 1994). L'ultimo dei due vide la partecipazione di Elvin Jones alla batteria, con un tipico stile reto-bop.

In Mediterranean Concerto (settembre 1988) debuttò il suo Concerto for Guitar and Symphony Orchestra (1985).

The Promise (1995) fu un altra serie di collaborazioni casuali con vecchi amici, come il tenore Michael Brecker nel brano di 14 minuti Jazz Jungle.

The Heart Of Things (1997) suonato insieme ad un vibrante quintetto (in collaborazione con il sasofonista Gary Thomas ed il pianista Jim Beard) ripropose il concetto della Mahavishnu Orchestra negli anni '90.

La sua terza registrazione di musica classica, Thieves And Poets (luglio 2002), contiene la suite di tre movimenti per chitarra classica e orchestra da camera Thieves And Poets.

John McLaughlin cercò di documentare la quarta dimensione in To The One (novembre 2009): Gary Husband al piano, Etienne M'Bappé al basso elettrico e Mark Mondesir alla batteria. Il quartetto ha debuttato nel 2004.

John McLaughlin's 4th Dimension recorded Now Here This (december 2011) with new drummer Ranjit Barot.

John McLaughlin (guitar and synthesizers), Indian vocalist Shankar Mahadevan and percussionist Zakir Hussain recorded Is That So? (2019) over the course of seven years.

Liberation Time (december 2020) debuted a new ensemble with Roger Rossignol and Osam Ezzeldin (both on piano), Ranjit Barot (drums, konokol), Jean Michel Aublette, Vinnie Colaiuta and Nicolas Viccaro (all three on drums), Julian Siegel (tenor sax), Etienne Mbappe (another Fourth Dimension's member), Jerome Regard and Sam Burgess (all three on bass) and Gary Husband (drums and piano).

Shakti, which had been silent since the live Saturday Night In Bombay, celebrated its 50th anniversary with This Moment (November 2021), their first studio album in four decades, with a lineup comprising Zakir Hussain on tablas and konokol, Shankar Mahadevan on vocals and konokol, and Ganesh Rajagopalan on violin and konokol (and guesting Selvaganesh Vinayakram on several Indian instruments). Konokol is the South Indian Carnatic music method of making percussive sounds with the voice.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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