One Track Mind: John McLaughlin, "Recovery" (2011)


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John McLaughlin
Guitarist John McLaughlin, decades after his audacious late 1960s' stateside debut with Tony Williams and Miles Davis, has lost none of his power, virtuosity and vision—as evidenced by this furious scramble from the new double-disc Abstract Logix Live 2010, to be issued on July 19.

The first to make any kind of coherent assimilation of the Jimi Hendrix guitar aesthetic, McLaughlin is underrated even today for his concurrent ability—best showcased in the 1970s-era Mahavishnu Orchestra—to use his backing group not as a typical head-solo jazz amalgam but as a layered, orchestral unit. They didn't stand there riffing beside one another, in the now staid tradition, but rather often playing as a combined force.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Another standout moment on 'Abstract Logix Live 2010' includes Lenny White's scalding update of Joe Henderson's “Gazelle."]

“Recovery" quickly reacquaints us with both things, showing McLaughlin as both furious improviser and heady conductor. Appearing with his current working unit the 4th Dimension (bassist Etienne M'Bappe, keyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, drummer Mark Mondesier) and tabla player Zakir Hussain, a world-music legend, at the New Universe Festival last November in Raleigh, North Carolina, McLaughlin doesn't radically alter this key track from last year's return-to-form record To The One. He doesn't need to. Instead, McLaughlin continues to move forcefully away from a period in the 1980s and 1990s that saw him lose momentum through a series of uneven acoustic efforts and a sometimes empty exoticism.

If you forgot just how good McLaughlin was (and is), here's a energetic reminder.

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