John McLaughlin: After the Rain (1994)
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After the Rain received much praise in 1994 from many critics who usually consider McLaughlin's approach to music a bit too cosmic. The feelings among McLaughlin devotees were more mixed, howeverthere was some talk that McLaughlin may be running out of ideas. After all, this was the second tribute album he had released in the last couple of years. There were even some complaints about his guitar tone. To be sure, it is a bit too warm. But when all is said and done, After the Rain is an outstanding recording.
This isn't to say it is the best or the most influential of McLaughlin’s albums, but it may be the most beautiful of his electric releases. It attains this status through its melodic textures, driving rhythms and overall musicality. And there is more to it than that. The beauty inherent in any recording can in some part be attributed to its spirituality. (Don’t worry; we are not going into Sri Chinmoy mode here.) The spirit that thrives on this album is rooted in its inspirationand that spirit is of John Coltrane. The beauty of this album emanates from McLaughlin's heartfelt purpose to honor the great musician who opened the door for him and many others.
After The Rain features several tunes associated with Coltrane. Two of McLaughlin’s compositions are included. The trio also covers Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues”. McLaughlin decided to showcase these compositions in a traditional Hammond B-3 trio format.
Former Coltrane sideman Elvin Jones' drumming evokes memories and emotions that can only be described as reassuring. His accents, bangs, thuds and grunts give great credibility to the affair. Jones' personal homage to Coltrane becomes clear through his brilliant playing; he provides a more than stable foundation for McLaughlin and organist DeFrancesco to build upon.
Joey DeFrancesco, who like most B-3 players, has a tendency to meander somewhat during solos, meanders not a wit. His playing emerges as purposeful and understated. However, when the need arises for driving power, he delivers.
McLaughlin's approach on After the Rain is more straight-ahead than it has ever been. At the same time, you know it is still JOHN MCLAUGHLIN. While a little more guitar bite would have been helpful, he does attain a light swing, a somber tone, and a lilting flow...words are lacking.
Pay special attention to this trio’s interpretation of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”. It is a killer. Coltrane’s beautiful “Naima” receives a respectful treatment, quite different from McLaughlin and Carlos Santana’s acoustic tribute from Love, Devotion and Surrender. The album’s title cut, “After the Rain,” brings this loving tribute album to a soft and sober landing.
Every single tune stands as a highlight, but pay special attention to "My Favorite Things" because this is soon to be what this album will be to you.
Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz
Track Listing: Take the Coltrane; My Favorite Things; Sing Me Softly of the Blues; Encuentros; Naima; Tones for Elvin Jones; Crescent; Afro Blue; After the Rain
Personnel: John McLaughlin- guitar; Joey DeFrancesco- Hammond B-3 Organ; Elvin Jones- drums