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Bebop Spoken There

Gil Goldstein: "The first three days I was in Florida, I heard Jaco Pastorius play at a club in Fort Lauderdale, and then I heard Pat [Metheny] play in a class on jazz composition. My whole experience of the world changed in those three days." - (DownBeat, March 2020).
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The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

Today Tuesday February 25

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. Tel: 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Jam session - Black Swan Bar, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 222 9882. 8:00pm. House trio: Dean Stockdale, Paul Grainger, Rob Walker.

A Roaring 20s Social - Durham Students' Union, Dunelm House, New Elvet, Durham DH1 3AN. 7:30pm. £12.00.,£10.00. Music student, £8.00. DUJS member. A Durham University Jazz Society event. Open to all.

Blues/Soul/Folk etc.

?????

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Happy Birthday John McLaughlin.

(By Steve T)

In 1973, three months short of my twelth birthday, I found myself part of something that would change my life. 

Despite his white suit and short hair, it wasn't unusual for people who went to see Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Hawkwind and Roxy Music, and Genesis and Yes to also go and see the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Years later. having read some of the growing literature on John McLaughlin, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jazz-Rock, it seemed there are two common threads amongst those who saw them live, besides Pat Metheny's recollection that it was like your face melting. That everybody who saw them had their lives changed by the experience, and that people thought that it was all John McLaughlin. My sole recollection was of a concert length guitar solo of astonishing speed and power that was beyond the comprehension of the human brain to adequately register. I would never claim it was anything other than way over my head, but he became the musician of my life and has remained so ever since.

He was born on January 4, 1942 and a photo of him as a child on the Electric Guitarist album reveals he was from Sunniside, Yorkshire though grandparents in Whitley Bay meant he spent time in clubs in Newcastle before becoming a sought after session musician in Sixties London, playing pop, rock and jazz, and recording his first solo albums.

It was Tony Williams - drummer in Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet - who initially brought him to America, to feature in his pioneering jazz-rock band Lifetime, but like Williams and McLaughlin, Miles had also had his mind blown by Hendrix and knew he had found his man. He played on all of Miles' seminal fusion albums of the early seventies, including Bitches Brew which features a track called John McLaughlin.   

It was Miles who advised him to form his own band and guru Sri Chinmoy - since discredited - who named him Mahavishnu.

After two studio albums and one live set, the original band burnt out quickly but he assembled a larger band for two further albums, the first of which - Visions of the Emerald Beyond - is mine and his favourite.

Despite huge success and fame, he disbanded them to create an Indo-Fusion band called Shakti, who recorded three albums before he returned to jazz-rock on the Electric Guitarist album. 

He revived the Mahavishnu Orchestra name several times with different lineups and would recreate Shakti much later, as well as playing Spanish music and classical music and creating virtuoso guitar trios, initially with Paco de Lucia and Larry Coryell, and then with Al Di Meola replacing Coryell.

In 2008 he created the 4th Dimension, a band more routed in jazz-rock than anything he'd done since the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The first time I saw them the compere began naming people he'd played with and he stopped her after Miles, Hendrix and Wayne Shorter, presumably for fear a comprehensive list would go on longer than the concert.

That night he played a cut from the first Mahavishnu Orchestra - something he'd never done - which opened the door for a revival which became a farewell US tour in 2017.

There was always a chance he'd bring it to the UK the following year, but the possibility of missing it was too great to risk and never an option. I'd seen him four times in different bands since that first time all those years ago, but this was the most spectacular display of virtuosity I'd seen by any musician since.     

I have written before that if the world ever comes to fully accept Jazz-Rock, he will be recognised as the greatest jazz artist since John Coltrane.
Steve T 

4 comments :

Chris Kilsby said...

Steve

Many thanks for your timely piece: a fitting tribute to a great musician (beyond genre, but certainly embracing jazz).

I've just read the (too detailed!) "Bathed in lightning" bio of JM, and a couple of new things came up:

1. I knew he he hailed from Yorks, but was brought up in Whitley Bay!

2. You rightly extol his virtuosity, and that of various of his bands. But that was just the starting point and was always worn lightly (unlike some prog of that era...) . The remarkable thing to me was the compositions of the first MO, which are as stunning and fresh today as when I first heard themm (sadly never live!). Apparently he wrote the whole two albums worth in the space of a few months prior to forming the band: and very little of his previous recordings gave any hint of what was arriving!

Anyway, happy birthday Johnny Mac, electric guitarist! I live in hope that we might see more heirs to his tradition in due course.

Chris K

Lance said...

He often sat in with local trad bands at the New Orleans Club as well as the jam session at the Wheatsheaf in New York (not the NY in America).

Russell said...

Some memorable McLaughlin occasions...

As Steve mentioned - Mahavishnu Orchestra at Newcastle City Hall.

The band's BBC Television 'in concert' performance. Folklore has it BBC technicians threatened to down tools and walk out of the soundcheck...it was rather loud! For those who missed it first time round it's readily available on the internet.

McLaughlin's two concerts in a day at the Newcastle International Jazz Festival (some were in attendance at both houses!).

Standing (geek-like) in a reverie outside the building at the top of Forth Banks in Newcastle which was once home to Newcastle's New Orleans Club - McLaughlin and many other 'names' gigged there.

Shakti at Newcastle City Hall.

Hearing Vital Transformation from Inner Mounting Flame for the first time. Every guitar student on the planet should check it out...and give up/take up the banjo.

Many years later...at a Billy Cobham drum clinic at the People's Theatre, Newcastle, in a Q&A a 'drum head' asked Cobham to demonstrate the drum intro to Vital Transformation. The next day's edition of the local newspaper (The Evening Chronicle) carried numerous 'drum kit for sale' ads.

McLaughlin in London with new bassist Jonas Hellborg.

McLaughlin in London with Paco de Lucia and (a late dep for Al Di Meola) Larry Coryell.

Steve T said...

Puff - apparently Richard Starkey is a neighbour.