Let me preface this review by admitting that I’ve never had an interest in McLaughlin’s music. My attitude toward his numerous projects and transformations has been one of unerring ambivalence. While listening to this disc wasn’t a revelatory experience it did suggest to me that I’ve been remiss in neglecting to explore his work. This album, which was also reissued awhile back by Rykodisc, visits him on the verge of forming his celebrated Mahavishnu Orchestra. Several of his future colleagues in the band are along for this ride including Cobham and Moreira.
Revered at the time of its release as the first extended showcase for McLaughlin’s acuity on acoustic guitar this disc has adopted something of legendary status. Prior to its appearance the guitarist had mainly favored the heavily amplified rock-inflected approach evident in his earlier work with Miles Davis’ fusion groups. Here he’s found embracing a very different sound, one steeped in East Indian tonalities and drone patterns. Both “Peace” pieces work off an ethereal rhythmic underpinning of buzzing tamboura, cyclic bass and teeming percussion. McLauglin’s terrestrial bound steel strings pierce through the reverie in stunning contrast to the whistling upper register lines of Liebman’s flute. Goodman’s prickly violin is similarly sharp-tongued spitting out streams of vaporous harmonics. “Peace Two” is less overtly propulsive building steam over an effusive rhythmic background of hand percussion. McLaughlin’s plucked lines approximate the brittle sonorities of sitar beneath the wailing melodicism of Liebman’s soprano and take the piece out in a rush of ecstatic release.
The remaining tracks place predominant emphasis on guitar, offering a mini-recital of the leader’s adroit skill on the strings across a diverse program of compositions. All are brief in length, but long on inspiration, though McLaughlin makes only sparing use of his sidemen. Several, including “Follow Your Heart” and “Song for My Mother,” employ creative use of overdubbing allowing McLaughlin to converse with himself. Taken alongside the opening group rendered pieces these closing numbers are comparatively Spartan in sound. Followers of John McLaughlin’s long and winding musical path will almost certainly welcome this album’s return to widespread release. Likewise those who are not as familiar with his work may find this disc as an easy entry point into his expansive oeuvre.
Personnel: John McLauglin- acoustic guitar; Dave Liebman, soprano saxophone, flute; Jerry Goodman- electric violin; Charlie Haden- bass; Billy Cobham, drums; Airto Moreira- percussion; Badal Roy- tabla; Mahalakshmi- tamboura.
Recorded: June 1970.
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I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.