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John McLaughlin And The Fourth Dimension At The Blue Note, 8pm Show, Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Love is still understand!
















It isn’t that the great guitarist John McLaughlin played a greatest hits medley at the Blue Note Thursday night, I have no idea how he would go about it any way, but with one song written with Carlos Santana, another dedicated to Ravi Shanker’s Tabla player and a third echoing In A Silent Mood without the sax, it sure felt like he was delving into his back pages, while  taking time to push the product, last years Now Here This, and 2010’s To The One, both with backing band the Fourth Dimension.

In other words, while the electric guitar whiz kid might well be a jazz icon (have you had a track on Bitches Brew name after you?) this is a rock and roll formatted performance that goes wherever it chooses.  With an excellent band behind him –Ranjit Barot on drums, Gary Husband on keyboards and Etienne M’Bappe on bass, the set is incredibly tight for a jazz improv quartet and the lack of a any wind instruments puts so much emphasis on the bass and drums, that again, the feel is a gifted prog rocker.

Throughout the concert, John concentrated and played off his rhythm section, the most protracted moment of the show featured Ranjit replying to a twisted note from John with a bashed out drum pattern. The two seemed to be glowing and when John brought it out of the spin, he did so with a speedy, dexterous note pulling on his full bloodied instrument.

While at other times, a “Calm Down” where Gary Husband’s keyboard playing seemed to be a deep echo from On The Corner,  and elsewhere where In A Silent Way is echoed quietly somewhere in the sound, what becomes very clear is the path to enlightment goes through a string instrument not a drum pattern. In that sense, while the rhythm is so all encompassing that Gary actually pays a second drum set at several points, the set isn’t really rock or jazz -it moves within a set aura. Even the Raga influences of “Little Miss Valley” have an ephemeral quality to them.

John is a cheerful, loving personality, but I sure got the feeling that he is sick to his back teeth with the internet. He mentions that a DVD with Carlos Santana is meant to be released while ruefully admitting you will probably be able to get it without paying. Maybe this “information wants to be free” dictate is killing his recorded works and that’s why he is signing his albums after the show (I didn’t wait for it). Still, he is a wonderful guitarist, one of the greatest, he has style and speed, his fingers pick at notes and his hands slide along the fret accurate, fast: it is dazzling stuff when he wants it to be; John is concentrated but also aware of the audience, he plays with his band but too us.

Still, this was a slight set. At 70 minutes it was very short and my sense is that if you went to all three nights it would add up to a  unified vision  but one set is not quite enough to get any real feel for  what is going on musically. It is over so quickly.

Grade: B

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