Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

755

John McLaughlin: On The Road, Part 6: Sound Checks and Closing Night

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

John McLaughlin


While audiences see the end results of a group's labors, there's much that they don't get to experience. Even for the relatively spare set-up of guitarist John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension, hours of work go on behind the scenes at every venue to make sure everything is as it should be when the doors open. McLaughlin's soundman Sven Hoffman and tour manager Christophe Deghelt arrive on the scene as much as six hours ahead of the show to ensure all the equipment is properly set up and all the necessary rules of engagement with the venue are organized before the group arrives. The primary goal of Hoffman, who has been working with McLaughlin for a decade, and Deghelt, who's been managing the guitarist's tours for seven years, is transparency, so that the group needn't worry about anything but the music.



Still, snags do happen beyond their control, and then it's up to them to ensure that things are resolved as quickly and smoothly as possible. When the group arrived in Toronto at Canada's legendary Massey Hall for the October 5, 2007 performance—the final date of the tour—there was a problem with the amplifier supplied for McLaughlin. The good news was that, while McLaughlin used the sub-par amp for most of the sound check, the proper one was ultimately located, just in time for the end of the sound check, about two hours before the 8:00 PM show.



The sound check itself can, once appropriate volume levels are set for all the instruments on the stage, be as routine as simply running down a song to make sure everyone can hear everyone else on the stage. Sometimes, after some preliminary discussion, difficulties with a tune encountered the previous night are ironed out at the following day's sound check. At other times, especially with a group as consistently inspired as this, there can be as much magic at the sound check as there is in the performance— occasionally even more.



If the band is really in a playing mood, there are moments at sound check that really deserve to be documented. In Ottawa, those in the hall during sound check were treated to an intense and frenzied workout between keyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, on his "jungle kit," and McLaughlin; it went on for over five minutes and was one of a number of "goose bump" moments at the various sound checks. Many North American fans were hoping that McLaughlin would pull out an old Mahavishnu Orchestra tune or two, but it ultimately never happened—at least in performance. In the Durham, North Carolina sound check, McLaughlin launched, albeit briefly, into the familiar arpeggio of "Meeting of the Spirits," from Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia, 1971), and in Montreal the group played around with "Lila's Dance," from Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Columbia, 1975).

John McLaughlin / Gary Husband

Another memorable moment was in Toronto, where bassist Hadrien Feraud, while trying out a couple of fretless basses brought to him by a Toronto luthier, began to play Jaco Pastorius' "Continuum." While McLaughlin's calling Feraud "The New Jaco" in recent press is more about the young bassist's already remarkable innovations at the age of twenty-three, hearing him play a Pastorius tune confirmed that Feraud's already done his share of wood-shedding with the late bassist's work. And when he launched into the late Joe Zawinul's "A Remark You Made," from Weather Report's classic Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), and Husband joined in with a phase-shifted piano, the two brought into clear focus just how influential the keyboardist, who passed away on September 11, 2007, was during his lifetime, and will undoubtedly continue to be.



The Toronto performance was a repeat of the two sets played in Montreal three days prior—a first set with the up-tempo reworking of an as-yet-unrecorded tune originally played by Remember Shakti, "Raju"; Husband's imaginative rearrangement of Miles Davis' "Jean Pierre"; the beautiful ballad "Nostalgia," from Mahavishnu (Warner Bros., 1984); and the energetic and often-covered "Hijacked," a strong feature for Feraud. After a brief intermission, the group returned with a powerful "Senor C.S." from Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006); a grooving take of the gospel-tinged "The Unknown Dissident," from Electric Dreams (Columbia, 1978); another reworked Shakti tune, "5 Peace Band"; and a last ballad, "Maharina," before closing with one of the best versions that McLaughlin has played yet on the tour of another often- covered tune, "Mother Tongues." Again, like Montreal, for the encore—demanded by the enthusiastic audience—McLaughlin and his group ended on a tranquil note with "Light on the Edge of the World."

John McLaughlin / Mark Mondesir

But while the set list was the same, it's a safe bet not just that this group will take the material to new places every night but that everyone will continue to think out of the box during each moment of a new performance. Husband, for example, relied more on piano for solos in Toronto than at the other shows AAJ has covered and, using the same phase-shifted tone from the sound check's take on Weather Report, it was clear he was "channeling" Zawinul that evening, while still sounding unmistakably himself. Feraud brought out a fretless bass for the ballads, creating a deep, in-the-gut vibe, while his fretted bass playing was particularly vibrant and, at times, unexpectedly percussive. Drummer Mark Mondesir—who has as much fun finding the place where swing and funk meet as he does intuitively responding to the smallest (and, sometimes, largest) of gestures from his band mates—was, once again, on fire—loose, limber and interactive.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
Best of / Year End
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Talking 2 Musicians
Building a Jazz Library
Live Reviews
Book Reviews
Talking 2 Musicians
CD/LP/Track Review
Book Reviews
Book Excerpts
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring - Live in San Francisco

John McLaughlin and...

Abstract Logix
2018

buy
Live at Ronnie Scott's

Live at Ronnie Scott's

Abstract Logix
2017

buy
Where Fortune Smiles

Where Fortune Smiles

Esoteric Recordings
2017

buy
Paco and John - Live at Montreux 1987

Paco and John - Live...

Eagle Eye Media
2016

buy
The Boston Record

The Boston Record

Abstract Logix
2014

buy
Now Here This

Now Here This

Abstract Logix
2013

buy
Date Detail Price
Apr23Tue
7:00 pm
John McLaughlin
Barbican Centre
London, UK

Related Articles

Read Jazz Migration 2018 Live Reviews
Jazz Migration 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2018
Read Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot Live Reviews
Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot
by Doug Hall
Published: December 11, 2018
Read Joe Gransden's Big Band At Cafe 290 Live Reviews
Joe Gransden's Big Band At Cafe 290
by Martin McFie
Published: December 9, 2018
Read U2 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin Live Reviews
U2 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 9, 2018
Read David Johansen at The Space at Westbury Live Reviews
David Johansen at The Space at Westbury
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 9, 2018
Read Joshua Bowlus Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Joshua Bowlus Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: December 8, 2018
Read "Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Curtis Brothers At Scullers" Live Reviews Curtis Brothers At Scullers
by Steve Provizer
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "Billy F. Gibbons at the Paramount" Live Reviews Billy F. Gibbons at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "Cologne Open 2018" Live Reviews Cologne Open 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "Gov't Mule at Red Rocks" Live Reviews Gov't Mule at Red Rocks
by Geoff Anderson
Published: September 29, 2018
Read "Pat Metheny at Merriam Theater" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Merriam Theater
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 10, 2018