John McLaughlin: Thieves and Poets (2003)
Guitarist John McLaughlin has been creating music for several decades, most notably jazz-rock fusion with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Throughout McLaughlin has incorporated rhythms from around the globe in creating what has always been fresh music. Thieves and Poets is no exception, so McLaughlin-ites should be pleased.
"My Foolish Heart" has a pensive, yet melodic flare. Its slow, meticulous phrasing is similar to "Stella by Starlight," a romantic piece that walks along. The phrasing is subtle, but very much present and noticeable. It's always a challenge recreating standards with integrity, but the band do these classics justice. "Thieves and Poets," done in three parts, captures a range of flavors, all testimonial to McLaughlin's versatility. "Part 1" is an orchestral piece where McLaughlin is accompanied by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. "Part 2" is a deeper, mysterious track and "Part 3" gives way to a flamenco vibe. "Part 3" is noted for call and response patterns, well conceived and developed. Skillfully, the dueling subsides and gives way to airy flamenco sketches of multiple acoustic guitars and conclude with an explosive wind ensemble. Thieves and Poets is highlighted by "My Romance," soft, airy and simple.
Those wishing to hear relaxed, well-composed orchestrations from one of the most skillful jazz guitarists around, Thieves and Poets is a worthy listen. It represents another side of McLaughlin, a pensive, harmonic and romantic one that you may not be accustomed to or, perhaps, even expect.
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This review first appeared in All About Jazz: Los Angeles .
Track Listing: Thieves and Poets Parts 1/ 2/ 3/ My Foolish Heart/ The Dolphin/ Stella by Starlight/ My Romance.
Personnel: John McLaughlin- acoustic guitar; The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie: Paul Meyer- clarinet; Viktoria Mullovaviolin; Matt Haimovitz- cello; Philippe Loli- guitar; Bruno Frumento- timpani