[JPL] The Fast, the Furious and the Very Virtuosic
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 2 16:02:42 EDT 2007
September 29, 2007
Music Review | John McLaughlin
The Fast, the Furious and the Very Virtuosic
By BEN RATLIFF
Hearing John McLaughlin play the electric guitar can
be like watching a trash compactor act upon a desk or
a television or a bicycle. The strength, the violent
compression, the speed and steadiness of the work it
all seems to defy whats possible.
The best moments of his show at Town Hall on Thursday
with his new band, the 4th Dimension, were the
beginnings and endings of his phrases, when he entered
an improvisation with a crunch and then when he
slipped out of it, trailing off with links of murmured
notes or a slow, deep downward press on his tremolo
bar. And though the middles were dominated by
exhaustingly fast runs and patterns, they werent bad
He knows that speed isnt everything; among those
highly articulated runs, he slowed down some phrases,
elongated some notes. As a whole, fast and less fast,
his playing reflected a great deal: post-Coltrane
jazz, blues, Indian music and some of his own work
since the early 1970s.
Mr. McLaughlin has usually toured with an acoustic
guitar over the last decade, but this was an electric
jazz-fusion show, straight up and down, with speed and
density and virtuosity. It included a keyboardist
(Gary Husband), who played passages with flutelike or
guitarlike sounds; a young bassist (Hadrien Feraud),
who is inspired by Jaco Pastorius; and a drummer (Mark
Mondesir), who hit hard on a big set, with a lot of
The bands rhythms, taking cues from Indian music,
were long sequences subdivided in different ways, so
that counting through the pieces was difficult; the
melodies lay atop those long, babbling streams of
beats. (At times there were similarities between this
approach and some modern Cuban jazz, too.)
This tours repertory includes Mr. McLaughlins music
going back more than 20 years, as well as a brief roll
through Miles Daviss early-80s vamping funk sound.
There was plenty of written material, but all four
musicians improvised furiously, and most of the time.
The rapid notes became a never-ending fizz, relieved
occasionally by a ballad or a blues.
Mr. Feraud, only 23, was given a lot of solo space,
and for many in the audience the show served to
introduce jazzs latest champion sprinter. Behind most
of his wickedly fast, harmonically adept electric bass
solos, usually run through an electronic filter that
gave them a watery sound, Mr. Husband switched from
keyboards to drums, which he played standing up and
furiously, bashing on a light-toned cymbal,
interacting with Mr. Mondesirs patterns. It felt
strange to pile so much more on top of what was
already too much.
Finally in fact, rather quickly the music became
oppressive. To put it in context, it wasnt as loud
and monolithic as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Mr.
McLaughlins early-70s band. It didnt have that
musics depth, either. Every member of the group did
play his share of phrasing at Mr. McLaughlins speed
and intensity, and sometimes all at the same time. But
there werent enough strong melodies in the music to
offset the extravagant technique.
John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension will play
tonight at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.;
tomorrow at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pa.; and
on Tuesday at the Place des Arts in Montreal.
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
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