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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

Black Light

Abstractlogix ABLX050

 

 

  1. Here Come The Jiis

  2. Clap Your Hand

  3. Being You Being Me

  4. Panditji

  5. 360 Flip

  6. El Hombre Qui Sabia

  7. Gaza City

  8. Kiki


John Mclaughlin - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, synth guitar programming

Gary Husband - Piano, synths, percussion, drums

Etienne M'Bappe - Electric bass, fretless bass

Ranjit Barot - Drums, vocals (Konokol)


Yorkshire-born guitarist John McLaughlin has been a considerable figure on the jazz scene on both sides of the Atlantic since his first album as leader, Extrapolation, a precursor of jazz-rock, way back in 1969. A giant of acoustic and electric guitar, he is also noted for the quality of his own compositions. Initially influenced by the blues, he straddles the worlds of jazz, rock and world music. He was a key player in Miles Davis' seminal albums, In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, as well as being involved in Miles' You're Under Arrest (1984) and in the recording of Aura, a suite composed in honour of Davis. Where he really put a marker down, however, was in his work with his Mahavishnu Orchestra, founded in 1971, which (appropriately enough!) had a further incarnation in the mid 1980s.The band brought together jazz, rock and Indian music. McLaughlin's interest in the latter was also evidenced in two small groups he founded, Shakti and Remember Shakti. Throughout his career, he has been an innovative figure. McLaughlin's Fourth Dimension Quartet first saw the light of day in 2007 - only McLaughlin and pianist/drummer Gary Husband remain of the original members of the group. Husband is another musician with a thirst for exploration and his eclectic musical influences are a valuable ingredient in the band's success. Etienne M'bappe, born in Cameroon but domiciled in France, is an electric bass player of some distinction who enhanced an already growing reputation when he joined Joe Zawinul's Zawinul Syndicate, back in 2000. Ranjit Barot is an Indian drummer, film composer and singer.

Half of the eight tracks to be found on the album gave particular pleasure. The title Clap Your Hand obviously derives from the well-known Zen koan i.e. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”. Here, we have two drummers (Husband and Barot) interacting impressively. It's a lively piece which brings out the strengths of the individual musicians. Barot is credited with vocals which sound more like interjections to me. Being You Being Me is also appealing, both mellow and melodic, with a lovely introduction and fetching solo from McLaughlin plus M'bappe's inventive bass playing. El Hombre Que Sabia is a tribute to Paco De Lucía, a friend of and collaborator with McLaughlin, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at only 66 years of age. This one features McLaughlin on acoustic guitar for the most part and is a Latin-infused swinger (De Lucía was a renowned flamenco guitarist), well worth a listen. The cream of the crop, though, for me at least, is the sombre, low-key but beautifully played Gaza City. This atmospheric piece manages to evoke a true sense of place, down to the martial drumming which punctuates the theme. A haunting refrain, at just over four minutes. By contrast, I was least impressed by Panditji with its eastern feel and what seemed to be interminable runs. A matter of individual taste I guess.

On the whole, this is a satisfying disc, especially for those who enjoy jazz fusion. There were echoes here of the heyday of Weather Report at several points. Indeed Husband's work at the keyboards reminded me of Joe Zawinul. There has always been a strong rock influence in McLaughlin's guitar playing and that persists. Those who enjoy his playing wouldn't have it any other way. Incidentally, if your curiosity is stirred as to what Konnakol is, I can report that it is a vocal percussion technique which is part of the musical heritage of South India, here employed by Ranjit Barot. We live and learn!

James Poore



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