John McLaughlin: Industrial Zen

Walter Kolosky By

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Industrial Zen is an amalgam of past lives, current beats and digital pastiches that finds John McLaughlin creating yet another musical mosaic to hang on his crowded walls. This fresh, vital and most importantly, relevant music will set your head and feet in motion.

"For Jaco is a fitting tribute. McLaughlin clearly has Pastorius on his mind these days, after just completing the sound mix of the Trio of Doom (Pastorius, McLaughlin and Tony Williams) tapes from their infamous late-'70s performances. The tune, which is up-tempo from the start, wastes no time in grabbing and tugging you right along. Aggressive percussion from Mark Mondesir and Gary Husband supports the skittering and catchy melody as Hadrian Feraud's fretless bass weaves in and out of the interplay by Evans and McLaughlin, who continue their simpatico from two decades ago.

Things slow down, temporarily, and become more electronic on "New Blues Old Bruise. (Say that three times fast!) Guest guitarist Eric Johnson contributes a fiery intro for a bed of electronica on which McLaughlin then lays the sheets.

"To Bop Or Not To Be is presented in tribute to Michael Brecker. Electronic noises, sounding a bit similar to the ending section of Michael Jackson's "Thriller, begin the piece. The impressive performances by Otmaro Ruiz (synthesizer) and Gary Husband (keyboards) are aided and abetted by Dennis Chambers (drums) and Zakir Hussain (tabla). This percussion combination, which is quite an interesting pairing, can be heard elsewhere on the album. Matthew Garrison's bass is effectively busy here as well. The tune fades out a la "Thriller.

The highlight on an album of highlights is "Dear Dalai Lama. The slow, spiritual introductory section combines the brilliant voice of Indian vocalist Shankar Mahadevan with, for a lack of a better term, "industrial noise." It's followed by the poignant tenor sax of Ada Rovatti and thoughtful synth work by McLaughlin over a soothing electronic soundscape. This beauty is abruptly hijacked by Chambers and Hussain, who insist on taking the piece in a new and dramatic direction. From what was once an introspective look into the soul, an explosion occurs! McLaughlin calls on his muscle memory to resurrect the bombast of his performance on "Phenomenon-Compulsion, from 1978's Electric Guitarist. Just as quickly as it seemed we were punched in the face, peace and tranquility return for the cool down.

There is also a tribute to Carlos Santana and three other impressive tunes, including Shankar singing in English on "Mother Nature in what almost passes as a pop song in this New World Order.

At times, Industrial Zen sounds close to what a technologically updated Mahavishnu Orchestra would have sounded like if it played the same material as McLaughlin's and Zakir Hussain's Remember Shakti group. But this new exciting mix also includes electronica, world beat/jam band rhythms, and some progressive jazz sophistication. The potpourri is somehow neatly wrapped inside a central vision.

Industrial Zen is the most exciting project McLaughlin has put out in many years. Let us hope he will be touring with this music soon.

Track Listing: For Jaco; New Blues Old Bruise; Wayne's Way; Just So Only More So; To Bop or Not to Be; Dear Dalai Lama; Senor C.S.; Mother Nature.

Personnel: John McLaughlin: guitar, synth programming, drum programming, , fretless guitar, chants; Bill Evans: soprano sax (1), soprano and tenor sax (4); Gary Husband: keyboards (1-3,5,7), drums (1,7); Hadrien Feraud : bass guitar (1, 7); Mark Mondesir: drums (1, 7); Eric Johnson: guitar (2); Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (2); Ada Rovatti: soprano sax (3), tenor sax (6); Dennis Chambers: drums (3,5,6); Zakir Hussain: tabla (3,5,6); Tony Grey: bass guitar (3,8); Matthew Garrison: bass guitar (4,5); Marcus Wippersberg: additional drum programming (4); Otmaro Ruiz: synthesizer (5); Shankar Mahadevan: vocal (6,8).

Title: Industrial Zen | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Verve Music Group


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