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John McLaughlin: On The Road, Part 1: The Interview

By Published: September 3, 2007

On Becoming Repertory

A relatively recent phenomenon is how material, once associated very directly with the band that originally made it, is now being considered open for reinterpretation. McLaughlin, in particular, has seen his music brought into new and unexpected contexts. Drummer Greg Bendian's Mahavishnu Project performs reverential yet deeply personal versions of Mahavishnu Orchestra material, including Return To The Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform, 2007), which documents the first-ever live performances of Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Columbia, 1975). Even more surprising is Celebrating The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which translates the electrified energy of McLaughlin's groundbreaking group into a classical string quartet, while Gary Husband's solo piano effort, A Meeting Of Spirits: Interpretations Of The Music Of John McLaughlin takes the music to more abstract territory.

"At the Crossroads Festival," McLaughlin says, "Jeff Beck, one of my old cohorts, opened up his set with two tunes from Mahavishnu—it was wonderful. He did 'Resolution' and 'Eternity's Breath,' one after the other, and he really played it too. He's such a great guitarist, and to hear that, it was very moving. We go back, we used to tour a lot in the '70s, and jam every night—two bands on stage, that was some high energy.

John McLaughlin

"And it's not just like The Mahavishnu Project, which itself is very moving. I saw them in New York, it must have been four or five years ago, and I had to go onstage and say something. I was so moved, really, and they played with such a passion, that was wonderful. And that string quartet [radio.string.quartet], how about that? When they sent me the demo and I said, 'Yes, I'll do your liner notes,' then they went through terrible traumas, lost two of the quartet, and everything was put on the back burner for about eighteen months. But they got back to me, the two who stayed faithful, and they brought another couple of people in and went ahead with the record. I was just so impressed when I listened to it."

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The Future

As the landscape of music distribution changes, so too does McLaughlin envision a change in the way he'll be putting his music out. "To tell you the truth," he says, "I don't know if I'll ever make a CD again. I made a CD in India, but we did a DVD, The Making Of, that's very interesting, I think, from a musical point of view and especially from an east-west point of view, and how the cultures are really melding together. In view of the way CD sales are—which is pretty lamentable—and that people are much more visually and audio oriented, I think that to be able to see what's going on while you have great sound, I think that is a much more interesting proposition. I think we'll probably just go with DVDs from now on."

John McLaughlin

As McLaughlin readies himself for the coming tour, the next year is going to be a treasure trove for his fans. Along with the CD and DVD coming out on Abstract Logix, Eagle Vision will be releasing a two-DVD set featuring two different Mahavishnu Orchestra performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival—one from 1974 featuring the eleven-piece MO that would go on to record Visions Of The Emerald Beyond, the other a 1984 performance from the tour in support of Mahavishnu (Warner Bros., 1984), both currently available in audio format only in the seventeen-CD box set, John McLaughlin Montreux Concerts (Warner Music, 2003).

"On the '74 show the sound is a little rocky," McLaughlin explains. "We did the best we could, with only two-track analogue with some drop-outs and some gaps. But the '84 was multi-track, and with my engineer we were able to do a really good job—and it's probably the only example of where the Synclavier guitar is really exposed. It was a great night and it was a good mix and everybody was playing really well. I'm very happy that it's finally coming out."

A great night, a good mix and everybody playing really well. Sounds like the perfect description of what McLaughlin fans can expect when he hits the road with The 4th Dimension, beginning September 13, 2007.

Selected Discography

John McLaughlin/S. Ganesh Vinayakram, The Gateway To Rhythm (Abstract Logix, 2007) (DVD)
John McLaughlin/Jaco Pastorius/Tony Williams, Trio Of Doom (Legacy, 2007)
John McLaughlin, Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, The Way Of Beauty (Universal France, 2006) (DVD)
John McLaughlin, This Is The Way I Do It (Mediastarz, 2004) (DVD)
John McLaughlin, Thieves And Poets (Verve, 2003)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, Saturday Night In Bombay (Verve, 2001)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, The Believer (Verve, 2000)
John McLaughlin/The Heart Of Things, Live In Paris (Verve, 2000)
John McLaughlin, The Heart Of Things (Verve, 1997)
John McLaughlin, The Promise (Verve, 1995)
John McLaughlin/The Free Spirits, Tokyo Live (Verve, 1993)

John McLaughlin Trio, Live At The Royal Festival Hall (JMT, 1989)
John McLaughlin, Belo Horizonte (Warner Bros., 1981)
John McLaughlin, Electric Guitarist (Columbia, 1978)
John McLaughlin/Shakti, Shakti With John McLaughlin (Columbia, 1976)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Columbia, 1975)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Apocalypse (Columbia, 1974)
Miles Davis, On The Corner (Columbia, 1972)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds Of Fire (Columbia, 1972)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia, 1971)
John McLaughlin, My Goal's Beyond (Ryko, 1970)
Larry Coryell, Spaces (Vanguard, 1970)
Miles Davis, A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970)
John McLaughlin, Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969)
The Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency! (Polydor, 1969)
Wayne Shorter, Super Nova (Blue Note, 1969)
Miroslav Vitous, Infinite Search (Atlantic, 1969)
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969)
Miles Davis, In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969)

Photo Credits
Live Black and White Photo: Jose Manuel Horna
All Other Photos: Courtesy of John McLaughlin and Abstract Logix

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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