JJ 02/94: John McLaughlin – Compact Jazz, Time Remembered & Adventures In Radioland

Thirty years ago Mark Gilbert reviewed three sets covering the guitarist's ventures in jazz, jazz-rock, flamenco and the raga. First published in Jazz Journal February 1994


Although compilations are often disparaged in these columns, Verve’s John McLaughlin Compact Jazz issue offers a valu­able reminder of McLaughlin’s early career. It also pays proper attention to discography, detail­ing location, date, personnel, original issue and current availability for almost all tracks.

The opposite ends of McLaughlin’s music, from the jazz and jazz-rock of the late sixties to the flamenco and raga inspired acoustic music of the later years are represented here. The most successful exam­ple of McLaughlin’s involvement with Spanish music is Palenque, where Paco De Lucia’s controlled but richly expressive exposition of the flamenco idiom eclipses those of McLaughlin and Coryell. McLaughlin seems more at home, and more inspired, in the ragged jazz-rock of Tony Williams’s Lifetime (Emergency and Allah Be Praised) and the heavy-duty bop-inflected blues of Sam Enchanted Dick, where his brittle, overdriven tone and stac­cato phrasing generate consider­able tension.

McLaughlin’s original Mahavishnu Orchestra was regarded as an innovative unit, but the eighties resurrection borrowed heavily from elsewhere – notably Weather Report, the coeval Miles Davis group and McLaughlin’s earlier acoustic conception. McLaughlin the electric guitarist – in this context a cross between Santana and Jimi Hendrix – was dated too. For all that, Adventures In Radioland does offer an attractively sequenced range of moods.

Time Remembered brings yet another reminder, as did the Kronos Quartet’s set of Evans pieces a few years ago, of Evans’s gift as a composer. Unfortunately McLaughlin makes more of soloing than Kronos did, and at such times the music is at its least compelling, its direction obscured, its tranquil beauty dis­turbed by inappropriately explo­sive runs. Beautiful tunes, beautifully rendered, neverthe­less.

[Compact Jazz] (1) Pasha’s Love; (2) It’s Funny; (3) Emergency; (4) Sam Enchanted Dick; (5) Allah Be Praised; (6) Peace Piece; (7) Reincarnation; (8) Palenque; (9) Que Alegría (65.24)
(1) McLaughlin (g); Kai Eckhardt (elb); Trilok Gurtu (pc). London, November 27, 1989.
(2) McLaughlin (elg); John Surman (ss); Brian Odges (b); Tony Oxley (d). London, January 18,1969.
(3) McLaughlin (elg); Larry Young (org); Tony Williams (d). New York, May 26 or 28, 1969.
(4) McLaughlin (elg); Dick Heckstall-Smith (reeds); Jack Bruce (b); Jon Hiseman (d). London, August, 1968.
(5) McLaughlin (elg); Larry Young (org); Jack Bruce (b); Tony Williams (d). New York, January 17, 1970.
(6) McLaughlin (g). London, January 18, 1969.
(7) McLaughlin (g); Kai Eckhardt (elb); Trilok Gurtu (pc). Ludwigsburg, between Novem­ber 29 and December 3, 1991.
(8) Larry Coryell, Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin (g).
(9) McLaughlin (g/pc/v); Dominique Di Piazza (elb); Trilok Gurtu (pc/v). Ludwigsburg, between November 29 and December 3.
(Verve 516 114-2)

[Time Remembered] Prologue; Very Early; Only Child; Waltz For Debby; Homage; My Bells; Time Remembered; Song For Helen; Turn Out The Stars; We Will Meet Again; Epilogue (40.11)
McLaughlin (g); The Aighetta Quartet; Francois Szonyi, Pascal Rabatti, Alexandre Del Fa, Philippe Loli (g); Yan Maresz (bg). Milan, March 25-28, 1993.
(Verve 519 861-2)

[John McLaughlin And Mahavishnu – Adventures In Radioland] The Wait; Just Ideas; Jozy; Half Man-Half Cookie; Florianapolis; Gotta Dance; The Wall Will Fall; Reincarnation; Mitch Match; 20th Century Ltd (41.32)
McLaughlin (g/elg); Bill Evans (s/kyb); Mitchel Forman (kyb); Jonas Hellborg (elb); Danny Gottlieb (d); Abraham Wechter (g). Milan, January-February, 1986.
(Verve 519 397-2)