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John McLaughlin: Risk, Magic And Mystery

By Published: January 7, 2013

After 40 years and over 250 compositions, it may come as a surprise that McLaughlin still doesn't see himself as a composer. "The thing is, I don't sit down and write music; I'm not able to do that," he explains. "Music comes to me, and then I write it down. I don't know why any specific tune comes. I have to wait. It comes, and then I write it down, and I just have to get it out of the way."

The 4th Dimension's music runs from Coltrane-inspired electric bop to radio-friendly guitar ballads and from grinding jazz-rock to funk grooves, but to McLaughlin it's all just music. "The 4th Dimension is, in a way, a jazz-fusion band," acknowledges the guitarist. "We're not trying to be world music, and we're not trying to be a jazz group or smooth jazz or anything like that. We're building bridges to each other, and it's a marvelous experience, it really is."

A key element of any of McLaughlin's projects, and now with the 4th Dimension, is spontaneity and the excitement generated by risk— those moments of magic and mystery. "We need the tightrope walking in the middle of the piece where you might fall, and perhaps we do," McLaughlin laughs, "but you have to take the risk, and we make it sometimes, and that's the whole point, to get to that marvelous collective experience."

Selected Discography
John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension, Now Here This (Abstract Logix, 2012)
John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension, To The One (Abstract Logix, 2010)
John McLaughlin, Floating Point (Abstract Logix, 2008)
John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension, Official Pirate: The Best of the American Tour 2007 (Abstract Logix, 2007)
John McLaughlin, Industrial Zen (Verve Music Group, 2006)
John McLaughlin, Thieves and Poets (Verve Music Group, 2003)
Remember Shakti, Remember Shakti (Verve Music Group, 1999)
John McLaughlin, The Heart of Things (Verve Music Group, 1997)
John McLaughlin, The Promise (Verve Music Group, 1996)
John McLaughlin, Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans (Verve Music Group, 1993)
John McLaughlin Trio, Live at the Royal Festival Hall (JMT Productions, 1990)
John McLaughlin, The Mediterranean Concerto (Columbia, 1990)
John McLaughlin, Bello Horizonte (Warner Music Group, 1981)
John McLaughlin, Electric Guitarist (Columbia Records, 1978)
Shakti, Shakti (Columbia Records, 1976)
The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Columbia Records, 1975)
John McLaughlin/Carlos Santana, Love, Devotion and Surrender (Columbia Records, 1973)
Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds of Fire (Columbia Records, 1972)
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia Records, 1970)
Miles Davis, In a Silent Way (Columbia Records, 1969)
The Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency! (Polydor, 1969)

Photo Credits

Page 1, 4: Courtesy Ted Kurland Associates
Page 5: Ina McLaughlin

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