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John McLaughlin - The Promise CD (album) cover


John McLaughlin


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.92 | 43 ratings

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4 stars "There`s always the promise of something new, good or bad. That`s what the title means: The Promise. You don`t know what it is, but you know there`s a promise of something different around every corner. " - John McLaughlin, 1996

With recording locations as diverse as the artists which appear on this retrospective ( although McLaughlin himself doesn`t see it that way ) this album has often been compared by many to 1978`s " Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist ". Nonetheless, he seems to be a very happy guitarist on every track on "The Promise" which ranges from searing fusion jams ( Jazz Jungle ) to short minitature experimentals ( Tokyo Decadence, English Jam ). It also certainly reflects his musical learning curve which has in the past included influences from the Mississipi delta blues to Ravel even if, at times, the music can sound like it has bee heard before. But, after all this is a "retrospective" album.

McLaughlin`s touring band at the time, which included Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Dennis Chambers on drums appear together on a McLaughlin composition, Thelodious Melodious, a tribute to Thelonious Monk, on which John proves that he can really swing when he wants to. Both Chambers and DeFancesco also appear individually on other tracks on the album which features no fewer than six lineups and 16 musicians.A brief examination of some of the tracks will allow the potential listener an insight into this celebration of McLaughlin`s diversity, versatility and humility both as a human being and as a musician. Arguably, the centerpiece of the work is the 14+ minute free form fusion blowout, " Jazz Jungle " which features Jim Beard on keyboards, James Genus on bass, Dennis chambers on drums, Michael Brecker on sax and Don Alias on percussion. This sort of echoes where McLaughlin was on 1969`s " Extrapolation " albeit in an updated form. McLaughlin`s comment to his bandmates at the end of the mayhem sums up his enthusiasm : " Why did you stop there, I was just catching my second wind!". A second track from the same NYC session is included with David Sanborn`s exuberant saxophone replacing Michael Brecker which is more subdued but captures the same lively spirit.

McLaughlin actually formally studied East Indian music in the early seventies before forming the firebreathing Mahavishnu Orchestra which would ultimately lead to the formation of his acoustic Indian fusion endeavour, Shakti. " The Wish " includes a member from that group, Zakir Hussain, on tabla along with master drummer Trilok Gurtu on percussion and Nishat Khan on Sitar and seems to be a calling back to Indian music as McLaughlin would reform Shakti a half a decade later. A piece which provides a glimpse into both the past and future. A reunion with Paco DeLucia and Al DiMeola also seemed inevitable and we get a flamenco interlude with a cool ambient intro conjured up by McLaughlin using electronic effects.

Two of the less likely guests McLaughlin invited to this flamboyant shin-dig were Jeff Beck and Sting. Beck is in full form with his distinctive twangy guitar on the emotionally charged opening tribute to Django Reinhardt simply entitled "Django " which clocks in at a respectable 7 minutes plus. Not so with Mr. Sting whe he and John run up the electricity bill on the fiery " English Jam" which clocks in at a little less than 2 minutes. Maybe Sting had to catch a plane and McLaughlin was late for a wedding. Would have liked to hear more of this though.

Many more suprises are to be found on " The Promise " from a Monty Python clip, readings from Dante and ambient environmentaleffects. Mention may also be made about McLaughlin`s respect for technology. Even after the 11 years which have elapsed since this collection of recordings was released it still sounds futuristic with midi guitar treatments and other synnthesized effects.An introspective offering from a true virtuoso and a testimony to the respect and admiration he has gained from his fellowmusicians. Sit back, relax and embrace John McLaughlin`s promise.

Vibrationbaby | 4/5 |


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