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Few tasks are more daunting than picking just ten of a great jazz artist's albums for a library collection. Each record adds in its own way to the appreciation of any artist. But in the case of guitarist John McLaughlin (b. 1942), choosing representative albums is made an even more difficult chore because so many of his records run at odd angles to each other. He seems to change styles so often that just keeping track can be a daunting task.
This set of records spans thirty years and a huge variety of approaches. It's a fine place to start if you're curious about McLaughlin's many angles on improvised music. For more information and options, visit our special feature section devoted to the music of John McLaughlin.
Note: dates listed correspond to the original releases; catalog numbers represent currently available editions.
John McLaughlin Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969) The guitarist's first efforts as a leader led to a classic recording which showcased the musician's European jazz roots in a modern jazz vein.
Miles Davis A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970) McLaughlin exploded onto the jazz scene with his ferocious playing on Miles Davis' 1970 record. The Jazz-blues-funk power chords McLaughlin unleashes on this recording still deserve attention.
John McLaughlin My Goal's Beyond (Knitting Factory, 1970) It's hard to believe the same man that blew the fuses on Davis' album quieted down and produced the truly remarkable acoustic My Goal's Beyond.
Mahavishnu Orchestra The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia/Legacy, 1971) The Mahavishnu Orchestra came next with its debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, which rocked both the jazz and popular music worlds. This was McLaughlin's true coming out party.
Shakti with John McLaughlin Shakti (Sony International, 1976) Shakti introduced yet another John McLaughlin, a musician who had immersed himself into Indian music. This record presented a hybrid of jazz and far eastern modes that literally helped introduce the world music movement.
John McLaughlin Electric Guitarist (Columbia, 1978) This record is noteworthy for the disparate styles and guest stars it featured.
John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Paco DeLucia Friday Night in San Francisco(Sony, 1981) The guitar trio's debut record was a live performance which revolutionized the way the acoustic guitar is viewed in the pop world. Its influence is still felt today.
John McLaughlin After the Rain (Verve, 1994) This organ trio with Joey DeFrancesco and Elvin Jones offered a significant showcase for McLaughlin to perform in a more straight-ahead jazz format. Many of these tunes are Coltrane compositions.
John McLaughlin and The Heart of Things Live In Paris (Verve, 2000) The Heart of Things showed the world that fusion music could still be exciting, and that Mr. McLaughlin was still its King.
Remember Shakti Saturday Night in Bombay (Verve, 2001) Coming almost full circle, this Remember Shakti album references the excitement of the Guitar Trio from 20 years earlier, as well as McLaughlin's approach to world music and jazz. It exemplifies how the guitarist continues to strive to incorporate all of his musical knowledge into a fresh outlook.
I love jazz because I enjoy the freedom.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was 17.
I met Cedar Walton at a concert in San Paulo.
The best show I ever attended was Helio Jambao trio.
The first jazz record I bought was Witchcraft by George Benson.
My advice to new listeners is listen to the old school first.