Nearly five decades have passed since John McLaughlin set foot in America as a relatively unknown musician to join the fusion band Lifetime, with the great drummer Tony Williams
and equally great organist Larry Young
. Two days later he was in the studio with Miles Davis
recording In a Silent Way
. The breadth and scope of his musical endeavors in the ensuing decades boggle the mind. It's doubtful we will ever fully know the impact he has had on music in general and the influence he's had on guitarists in particular. Naturally we focus on jazz first, but his influence stretches far beyond jazz to artists few people might suspect. For example, the artist, guitarist, singer/song writer, producer Todd Rundgren was interviewed on the Marc Maron's WTF podcast in 2016 and without prompting shared this:
"So I had a band that I played with, and I continued to make solo records, although most of the touring in that era was with the band (Utopia.) It was this collaborative musical exploration. For us as players, we started to think of ourselves as players, you know you play enough to get kind of good at what you are doing, and there are these gravitational influences that come by, and one of them was Mahavishnu Orchestra. It blew everybody's mind, not just my mind, everybody's mind, we were collectively blown. What those things do is usually to open you up to possibilities you didn't think of, playing in modes you didn't think of before. Creating melodies that don't have the typical cadences that you're used to, and that sort of thing. Creating textures that are hard to pin down in terms of the tonality... They called it jazz fusion or fusion rock, but it was all about having those jazz chops, and after all John McLaughlin was a famous jazz musician, and a lot of the guys he played with had some reputation, but weren't as well known..." At this point Maron interjected a question which changed the subject, but the point is, who would have guessed that John Mclaughlin had such an impact on Todd Rundgren? Hardcore Allman Brothers fans know, and Jaimoe has confirmed, that Bitches Brew
, In a Silent Way
, and Tony Williams Lifetime !Emergency
were among the influential albums that the original Allman Brothers Band had in heavy rotation.
His influence does not appear to be waning with younger guitarists. Last year I interviewed Zayn Mohammed
, the winner of the UK TV competition Guitar Star, and after we finished the interview he shared this with me about John McLaughlin: "I realized that my soul and his, we're dancing already somewhere up in the cosmos, and he's the reason that I play fusion. At the age of 3 my father was taking me to see Shakti
until the age of 12, so I grew up with John McLaughlin and U Shrinivas as a kind of enigma, and as I've grown up I realize his soul and mine are made from the same treethat's a huge, hugeit almost sounds arrogant for me to say that, but what I mean is just in our essence, in our soul."
These are emotional times for John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring. This year each of them has lost a number of close personal friends, and of course John is preparing for his final tour of North Americawhich might also be the end of his touring career. Recently I spoke separately with both of them in order to give AllAboutJazz readers and Talking2Musicicans listeners an inside look into John McLaughlin's Farewell Tour of America. In addition, I also spoke with Souvik Dutta, the founder of the Abstract Logix label, who is acting as agent, director, and manager for the Farewell Tour.
Although the two of them are separated by an ocean, over the past few years John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring
have developed a deep and abiding connection. Souvik Dutta modestly called it a case of the stars aligning, but in fact he was nudging both of these stars' obits so that their paths crossed several times. Knowing them both so well, he recognized they were highly compatible. He arranged to have Jimmy open once for John in Boston, and made sure John heard Jimmy's albums: "I've been working with John Jii since 2003, that's pretty much the start of my journey. And with Jimmy, I've seen him perform since 1993 and listened to ARU since 1991... and how strange it is, so many years later I got to meet Jimmy through Jeff Sipe and we started working together from there, and I convinced him to do his solo album Lifeboat
"Then in 2010 when John was on tour in America, I don't know if he remembers it actually, but at a single gig in Boston, Jimmy and his band opened up for him. During that tour we did the New Universe Festival in Raleigh, NC and he saw Jimmy with Lenny White
that night. But it was really the PRS Event (Paul Reed Smith) in 2015 that aligned the stars more favorably for something like this to happen. John Jii agreed to perform the music of Mahavishnu, I know in the past, I don't know if the word is 'resisted' or not, but I know he's shied away from doing that in the past. But I think when he saw Jimmy play and met him personally, I know he was taken aback not only by his musicality but also by his personality. He then found out that Jimmy was also a Mahavishnu fan, and was already covering that music for years with his band... The stars just aligned. Imagine asking John McLaughlin to have another guitarist with him on his farewell tour! So it was entirely John's decision to have Jimmy come onboard."
Jimmy Herring shared this about playing the PRS Anniversary Night with McLaughlin: "This is a trip, because I always viewed John McLaughlin as the supreme musical being. All music is contained in every note that he plays. Music from all cultures. You can hear rock and roll, you can hear Indian classical music, you can hear French jazz, you can hear Miles Davis, you can hear all this in every note he plays. And this is the way I've always envisioned John McLaughlin. John is the master of Indian classical music, the most complicated rhythmic system we know ofit's the deepest, the most complex, and yet the most beautiful."
"Bruce on the other hand is not any of those things, but the thing they have in common with each other is that they both are like a raw nerve, they're both so exposed when they playthey're so true to themselves, so pure. The thing that blew us away when John came out and started playing is that he sounded like Bruce! Not in the notes that he was playing, John has a lot more chops and musical knowledge, but the one thing they have in common with each other is that they are both so pure, and so exposed in a beautiful way, because they're not faking it. The minute John started playing it was so raw, and so real. I hadn't heard John play through an amp in a long time, and he plugged into one of Paul Reed Smith's amps and he cranked it up nice and loud, and it was like, oh my God. All of us just about fell down. It was like all those records that we grew up listening to, there's that sound! And it's right there beside us!"
"Before I came to Atlanta, I was listening to Mahavishnu back in North Carolina, just a complete addict, and I obsessed over everything John did. I followed him through different phases of his entire career, and was struck by how he was able to reinvent himself. Every few albums he would do a drastic turn, and he would be like a different musician, in much the same way as Miles Davis. I remember Belo Horizonte
and I was able to see that band play live twice. And the Music Spoken Here
record I was absolutely baffled by his ability to go from Mahavishnu, to Shakti, to anything he wanted, then there was this incredibly cool French twist on the Belo Horizonte
sessionsand getting to see them play that live! I never got to see Mahavishnu, I never got to see Miles Davis, or any of the things John had done before that. He came out playing an acoustic gut string guitar as if it were a Les Paul. He didn't seem to have any limits, only now just a completely different format. He would change all the elements around him, and then just be himself. It was mind-blowing, and when he got up on stage at the PRS event it was just surreal."
One of my observations when speaking with Jimmy Herring concerned a couple of similarities he and John McLaughlin share, one is having an older brother who expanded their musical horizons, and the other was that both were happy as sidemen and needed a nudge to form a band and have their name on the marquee. Jimmy astutely noted that the one doing the nudging was a mentor, who was important in their lives: "Yes, and Bruce was my Miles Davis, and he did the same thing with all of us. Like Miles, Bruce didn't want to keep the same band together for twenty years. He wanted to work with new people, get them ready for the major league, but staying tight with them after they left. Always talking on the phone, always playing together whenever the opportunity came up. It's true John and I have those same things in common, the older brothers and the mentor."
For those who might not have heard, Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage during a celebration of his 70th birthday and died shortly thereafter. He was surrounded by his loyal fans and a star studded group of musicians with whom he had been close. He was known for his campy humor and theatrics, so it took a couple of minutes for those present to realize that this was not an act.
Naturally it was a terrible shock for those present. The trauma is still too immediate for Jimmy Herring, so I didn't broach this subject with him. However, when speaking with John McLaughlin there was a natural segue to this incident when he spoke mournfully of all the friends he had lost this year : "But I couldn't imagine myself one year ahead, because a musician's life is precarious. When I think of all the friends I've lost over the years, how about the people we've lost this year. Al Jarreau, Larry Coryell, Allan Holdsworth, but you know (laughs) we're all in the same boat. As they say, we're all on death's row. A little dark humor." Sadly, only a couple of days later I learned from a McLaughlin Tweet that John Abercrombie had died.
His thoughts about Bruce Hampton's death: "Jimmy and I have become quite close over the past few years, especially after we're now planning to tour together. His agent (Souvik Dutta) and I work together, and he was there, so I heard about it within hours. For me it is an ideal way to go, but for the fans it is dramaticI don't know, it would upset me to have seen that. To witness the loss of a friend, you know. But from his point of view I think it was perfect, there couldn't be a better moment in one sense, could there? But from the point of view of the musicians around him, I know they thought he was goofing around, it was like 'Okay, Bruce' and then there's the shock and horror that kicks in, and that's rough when your friend dies in front of you. But he's (Bruce) there looking down and thinking wow man, what a way to go. For me yes, but to witness it, I don't know, I think it would be painful."
Generally artists are eager to talk about their latest recording, so I fully expected the conversation to revolve around his soon to be released live recording at Ronnie Scott's. Especially since it wonderfully captures him completely on top of his game, with a band that is tighter than stretch pants at an all-you-can-eat buffet. However, the implications of his upcoming farewell tour and the loss of so many of his close friends have understandably pulled on his heartstrings. As a result, my lead question about Ronnie Scott triggered a flood of memories, and my interview plans quickly flew out the window. Instead, I had the fascinating experience of listening John McLaughlin vividly reliving a flood of powerful memories.
He was speaking about how great Ronnie Scott's was, and then he continued: "The greatest of all was the Village Vanguard in New York, when I first entered the Village Vanguard it was to play with Tony WilliamsI mean, I heard Coltrane coming off the walls. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you know I grew up with thatSunday Afternoon at the Village Vanguard with the Bill Evans
Trio. Everybody played there, everybody!"
"Ronnie Scott's was not quite to the extent of that, but there was a great vibe at Ronnie's, largely due to him. He announced everybody, and he had such a droll sense of humor. (Laughing) If he didn't like one of the musicians he'd let everybody know. I'll never forget, he had a thing with Stan Getz, he didn't like Stan Getz. Stan Getz was a marvelous saxophonist, we've gotta tell it like it is, I've been a fan of Stan Getz since the 60s. But he was (laughing) very demanding to Ronnie. I remember one night he came on stage and said (imitating Ronnie Scott) 'Oh man I've got such a sore back from bending over backwards for Stan Getz!' "
To give him another chance to plug is live recording, I asked him if he saw Wes Montgomery at Ronnie Scott's when he was there recording an album in 1965: "Oh yeah, Wes was there all the time. I never met him, I was one of the young kids around, but of course I saw him and heard him play, because he was a great guitarist. He was very well known, he was a guitarist and he kept coming back to Ronnie's. Actually he was on his way to Ronnie's when he passed away, that was tragic. He had some kind of malady, illness, and he had the wrong medication or something and he died on the plane coming over. He was going to do another week or two weeks at Ronnie's."
Then came a great memory of playing with Rahsaan Roland Kirk
: "Here's a nice little anecdote, Rahsaan was there (Ronnie's) and there were two bands. The band that I was with was a Hammond Organ Trio with Mike Carr, a British organ player, and you know that Hammond organ trioin the 60s you had a lot of great trios: Jimmy McGriff
, Richard "Groove" Holmes
, Jimmy Smith
of course, Brother Jack McDuff
, a lot of Hammond organ, guitar, and drums. It was more of a R&B funky jazz, it was swinging, don't get me wrong, because I love the Hammond organ, you know, playing with Tony Williams and the great Larry Young. In any event, we were playing a more R&B jazz. And Rahsaan would be playing with the regular trio with the classical chang chang a lang, and Rahsaan was supposed to play with them after us. But one night he comes over and says, (imitating Rahsaan) 'Man I gotta play with you guys.' So the next night he came in early, and he sat in with us, to the great surprise of Ronnie because he had to play a set afterwards. But what a thrill that was for me. A one point I had my solo and he's standing behind me, and he's playing the three horns, and he sounds like a one man big band. Wonderful, wonderful."
Earlier I had asked him about Bill Evans because I so love John's tribute album to him. He remembered the question and fortunately tied it in quite nicely to his lucky break with Tony Williams: "In fact, you mentioned Bill Evans, that's really how I got the gig with Tony Williams, because Jack DeJohnette
was playing with Eddie Gomez
. Dave Holland
was in the other house band, and I was staying with Dave because I was living in Belgium at the time playing with a kind of free jazz group. But every time I came back to London I was playing with Dave, and Jack loved to jam, and he said to Dave, 'Hey man let's jam tomorrow.' So Dave told me, we're going to jam tomorrow with Jack at Ronnie's in the afternoon. And Jack had one of these Mission Impossible tape recorders, (laughing) 1968not the ones that explode. And he recorded the jam. And two months later when Tony was talking to Jack back in New York saying that he wanted to leave Miles and get a Hammond organ trio, but he was looking for a guitarist. So Jack told him, 'Listen, I taped this guy when I was in London.' And I got the call when Tony heard the tape. Luck right, being in the right place at the right time."
In order to give him another chance to plug the album I asked him to imagine, if I could somehow go back in time and play his latest album for the John McLaughlin of 1971, how did he think the young John would react? However, the question evoked memories of just how hard life had been as a struggling musician, and how strong his affection for Miles Davis has remained: "It was difficult just getting by really. The only time I got by financially was when I spent 18 months in the studios. At that time there was this big boom going on with recording, and there were all these American artists coming to Britain to record, and for the first time I had some money in my pocket. After 18 months I was dying Alan, it was terrible. I got to play with some nice people. I got to meet Mick Jagger, I did some things with the Stones, I used to do Donovan's records, I used to do Tom Jones records, but (laughing) I did a lot of schlager tunes you know! After 18 months I quit and I became poor and happy."
"It was touch and go for the first couple of years. Tony, Larry, and I were playing clubs making $20 a night. It was actually thanks to Miles that I got by. You know Miles took me under his wing right after In a Silent Way
, which was two days after I arrived in America. He used to ask me over to his house, because he was really interested in having a guitarist in his band. When he would see me, every time he would say, 'Are you eating okay?' And he'd stuff a $100 bill in my pocket. Every time, I mean, what a genial man he was. So it was really thanks to Miles that I got by. And of course when I would do record sessions he would just pay me in cash, and he's say, take care of yourself, make sure you eat, pay your rent. When I think about it, it was wonderful really. It was about at the end of 1970, and I was with Miles at a club called Lenny's On the Turnpike. And he turned around and said, it's time you formed your own bandwhich was the last thing on my mind."
"But because he said it, I kind of had to justify his belief in me, and that was before the beginning of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. But I was in a very lucky situation, because with Miles he wanted that R&B thing. And that's what I'd been doing, R&B and funk in the 60s, just to survive, and he wanted all of that stuffwhich is what happened with Bitches Brew
, he was moving out of that kind of classical 60s thingin a way he had got to the end of it, he's done such a perfect distillation of that classical quintet he'd been running for ten years."
"But with Tony, whom I loved and I miss dearly, such an amazing musician and a drummer he constantly encouraged me to write music, which was wonderful for me. In fact, the majority of the first Mahavishnu music I had prepared when I was with Lifetime, and I'd run ideas by Tony, and we did, in a way, preproduction versions of those tunes while I was in Lifetime. I got really lucky from both sides in so far as Miles wanted one side of me and Tony wanted another. But economically nothing really happened for me until Mahavishnu came out, and it went ballistic didn't it?!"
Of course I asked each of them about the other. Here is Jimmy Herring on John McLaughlin as a person: "He's unbelievably generous and he's really gregarious, and he's so comfortable in his own skin. He's incredibly fun to talk to, and of course he is an idol to me, and it is hard to dodge that. You know, I never imagined I would meet John McLaughlin, much less play with him, he was always going to be that guy to me who was up on that pedestal, and he still is of course. Believe me, you couldn't find a better role model. The discipline and the Zen. Look at his career, it makes me feel lazy when I look at everything he's done. My discovery of John was in the Mahavishnu period, but that had already happened. He'd moved on, that had happened in the early 70s and this was in the late 70s. He wore all white, and he was Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, a supreme being who dedicated his life to beauty, passion and music. And he did everything for the right reasons, and drugs were not a part of the equation. He was on a spiritual plane, and he was high on life. There was a mystique surrounding it. It was before the Facebook ageI'm sorry, but I just love that period. You'd hear the spirituality just pouring out of him, and it was so intriguing and mystical, and you could hear in every note that he playedit was sacred. That image of him is still with me, so when I met him, I had no idea what he was going to sound like when he spoke. So when he spoke I was baffled, because he's British, but he doesn't sound British, and I find that fascinating."
When asked about Mclaughlin's rhythm: "He's like a drummer on the guitar. It becomes clear the more you listen to him, that rhythm and melody are equals parts of his being. Rhythmically I would consider myself just a "B" you know, just a fledgling. I've played with a lot of people who are deep into rhythm, but I've never gone all the way in. Another reason why I said I felt lazy before. Have you seen the Gateway to Rhythm DVD that he did? He lays out his rhythmic concepts on a silver platter for anyone who is interested. Obviously he absorbed Indian classical music and it's gone through his filters, and he's done his thing within those parameters. It's mind-blowing."
I hardly got a chance to ask John McLaughlin about Jimmy Herring, but just as his wife told him his next interview was waiting I asked him about Jimmy's version of his song "Hope." Impassioned he responded: "Did you hear the solo he played on that? I heard that solo and I said, holy shit! (Laughing) Why couldn't I play that! I called him up right away, and I said you just nailed it Jimmy, you nailed it. He played that song like it's his, he made it his. It's unbelievable, and what he did so endeared him to me, I really felt like he was family. He'd taken that piece of music that I wrote all those years ago and he turned it into something magnificent and then he soloed on itI mean, like to die for, amazing."
I mentioned it was a shame George Harrrison didn't have a chance to hear Jimmy's version of his song, "Within You Without You": "I wrote to him last week and I asked are you going to play "Within You Without You," and he said, oh man, you know I haven't done it in a long time. (Laughing) Maybe I've got to brush it up. But you know, it's amazing, amazing. A little bit like Jeff (Beck) doing "A Day in the Life." And Jimmy's got that thing, and that tune, he does the perfect George arrangementyou know with the strings (sings) da da di da, da da di da. I'm really excited that we're going to be playing together."
Just as Ronnie Scott had evoked a flood of memories for John McLaughlin, asking Jimmy Herring to explain Bruce Hampton to someone who's never heard of him, caused a similar flood of memories: "His true genius was in giving musicians an outlet to discover their own voice. He never told you what to play, he didn't work that way. He might make you listen to music you've never heard before that he loves. When I got with him it was all about Howlin' Wolf
and Bobby Blue Bland
, and also he loved bluegrass, he loved Bill Monroe and all this classic stuff. He loved Ornette Coleman
, he loved Cecil Taylor, he loved anything real, and people who didn't just practice on stage."
"That was one of his pet peeves, he didn't want to hear you practice on stage. It's hard to explain his genius to someone, I guess I would take someone they know, like if they know Miles Davis, Frank Zappa or John Coltrane
. Miles Davis is a good person to look at, because he was constantly searching, and he was open to everything, and he recreated himself more times than anyone can count... So we view Bruce as a father figure to a lot of young musicians who could bring things out of them they didn't know was in them. We viewed Bruce kind of like an Alabama football coach version of Miles Davis."
"You know, he was Southern, and being around him was infectiousthere was a lot of laughter, great stories, but there was never any academic music talk. He was an intellectual, but he didn't feel that music was the place for that. He saw music as a more primal thing that was not something to be studied. He wasn't against it, but his thing was helping you to find your true essence. He would give you an outlet, and if you played long enough with him, you would stop sounding like your heroes."
"When I first got with him I was totally into Steve Morse
of the Dixie Dregs, John McLaughlin, Scott Henderson
, and I was just starting to get deep into the horn playersMichael Brecker
, and of course John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, and Charlie Parker
. I was just starting to learn about phrasing. You know, guitar players don't have to take a breath, but horn players do, and I was starting to become enamored with that and the way they phrase. Bruce was great because he'd say, you need to stop listening to guitar players. I did for a while and he was right, and I knew he was right. I'd been so influenced by the guitar players I mentioned and also John Scofield
. Bruce turned me on to horn players who were playing from the other side of the brain."
"I can remember people on the Atlanta music scene saying to me, what are you doing playing with that guy! People who were concerned about me going down the wrong path. You know what it is, it's like John Gilmore
in Sun Ra
's Orchestra. I remember a video of him being interviewed and they are asking him, what makes you stay with Sun Ra, and he said, 'Well, one day I just heard it, and after I heard it, I just couldn't go back.' That's what it was like playing with Bruce... He wanted you to get out of your own way, where it's not 'you' doing it. But he warned us that freedom can be a prison, and that was one of the heaviest things he ever said to me."
"When you're living it, and you're on the road eight weeks at a time with four other guys who are of the same mindsetthey don't want to hear what you played the night before. So you'd better come up with something new. So when you're doing it every night you get better at it, and when you're playing with four other people who are of the same mind, and they're doing it too, you really do get better at it. But when you go back to playing regular music, it's not like riding a bikeyou can lose it, and I know I've lost some of that, just because I'm not in that outlet every night anymore. It's a different kind of thing, and I'm a big believer that you shouldn't sound the same with every band you play with."
"Music is so infinite, and there is always something to work on. And for some of us, it's simply learning how to just serve the song, get your ego in check, and not feel you've got to show everything you know in one solo. Or you can work on playing lyrical things instead of chops."
"With this new band Invisible Whip I'm trying to reflect upon everything I've learned up to this point. The music I started out with, and the music I made with Bruce I want that to be a factor in what we're doing. That's really important to me because that's the place where I found a voice, and the people I shared that with like Jeff Sipe, are always going to be the people I want to play with. All the people in the band have played with Bruce at one time or another. Then there's also what I've learned in my time since my experience with Bruce stopped being a full time thing anymore. Then there's also what I've learned after playing with Bruce stopped being a full time thing. Playing with these jam bands like the Dead, the Allman Brothers Band
, Phil Lesh's Quintet, and Widespread PanicI've learned so much from all these people, it's different, but there is a thread that connects them. It's real, it's in the moment, and it's all about opening yourself up to try and get out of your own way."
John McLaughlin shares his reasons for the farewell tour: "I'm 75 and I've got an older brother who's ten years older, and he's fit as a fiddle, so I'm lucky to have gotten good genes. I'm still here, I'm ready to play. But at the same time, I inherited music from my mom, but I also inherited arthritis, so that's another element in the game. But it's kind of under control at the moment, but it's part of the reason why I'm not taking any tours next year. The idea of being on tour and having a bad hair day and saying 'Sorry guys' that would be a calamity, that would be catastrophica kind of betrayal, and I could never let that happen. So we'll see what happens, I'm taking a year off."
"There are some great people around and I'm working with them, so you never know. It may all work out, you know miracles do happen. Because the day I stop making music will be the day I keel over, and that would be it. (Laughs) Wherever I may be, on stage, off stage, that will be the day because, how can you stop? I cannot stop, and musically I've never felt better and I'm looking forward to this tour, especially with Jimmy."
"As I was saying before, with Mahavishnu, that really exploded. America embraced that band and that music, so because I really don't know if I will ever be able to make another tour, if that's the case, then this is a farewell tour. And this brings that music full circle. As you know from the live record, we've already brought a couple of tunes up to date. And Jimmy himself, who was a real fan of Mahavishnu Orchestra, he's got a couple of tunes in his set. And that third set with the mass bands, where we'll have three drummers, or two drummers and three keyboard players, two guitarists, and two bass players. Jason will be up there with his violin, but he sings good, and plays good keyboardshe's a monster musician. Jimmy's got a great band, and the 4th Dimension are on my case every night, which is of course exactly what I need. It's called, don't let the boss get lazy."
"We'll all be on stage and we'll all be playing the heavyweight tunes from that era. There are some tough tunes, and I know because I've been going through the scores, and that is some crazy music I wrote in those days. All I can say is thank God I worked with a guy at Warner Music, I think it was around 1974, and he said we've got to put all this music in written form. You know the book Mini-Scores with the Mahavishnu music, I mean, if I had to transcribe all that that. I remember some of it, but there are some lines and some notes, it's really difficult, and to transcribe that from a record you go back and forth and write itoh man, this book saved me hundreds of hours of transcription."
I happened to speak with Souvik off-the-record over a year ago, just after the two guitarists had agreed on the tour. At that time John McLaughlin's expectation was that he and Jimmy Herring would co-headline, alternating nightly on who would open. As you can imagine from Jimmy's comments above, the idea of opening for his idol was impossible to accept. By using the excuse that the altering show would make life difficult for the crew, Souvik was able convince John to give up that idea. When I asked Souvik about the co-headling he responded: "I know from John's perspective this is about equals. His feelings for Jimmy Herring are so deep and so strong, and I know Jimmy is relieved the he goes on first and John goes on second." In the end the joint third set turned out to be ideal for all concerned.
Souvik shared this about the tour: "Jimmy's band is working to have a pool of 25 songs for the tour, also some new material, and they are keeping some surprises that they haven't been doing on the summer tour. John's set will be an hour with the 4th Dimension. The final set is going to be from all those great Mahavishnu albums, and they may venture out into the Miles Davis territory. All nine guys will be on stage and John wants it to sound like an orchestra." Jimmy is known for relentless dedication to practicing, and it appears he's stepped it up a notch for this upcoming tour. His wife shared a couple of photos of the solar eclipse with me and mentioned it was the only thing so far that had gotten Jimmy to take a break from practicing.
Souvik shared this about special guests: "Yes, people should expect surprises, and John wants to handle it himself... I have a very stong sense there's going to be a lot of surprises in a lot of places."
For jazz fans this tour will be special in another respect. Jimmy's friend Paul Hoffman of Pulse Lighting, who does Widespread Panic's lighting (and many others) will be on the tour. Souvik related: "Jimmy tells me this guy is the best of the best!"
I asked John if he would be willing to do one final concert with the tour in Europe and perhaps have it recorded by one of the European television stations to preserve a bit of musical history: "Oh I know, my agent is saying he knows a lot of Europeans who are calling him, but listen, if the Gods will it, then I'll be there. Everything right now depends on my hands, and if my hands are good, then I'll be there!"
So just like his song, there is still "Hope."
Let us indeed hope that John McLaughlin's arthritis is held in check and that he will continue to defy age. If you're in North America you don't want to miss this historic tour.
Photo credit: composite of two original photos by Pepe Gomes provided courtesy of Abstract Logix. Composite and effects by Alan Bryson