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British jazz and rock scene when he joined Miles Davis in 1969, and quickly consolidated his new international profile with his own Mahavishnu Orchestra, and later with the Indo-jazz fusion of Shakti. In subsequent years, McLaughlin has continued to move back and forward from acoustic to electric guitar.
‘I always felt that to have the physical means to play an acoustic instrument is much more difficult — in a physical sense, electric guitar is much easier to play, and if you speak to piano players, they will say the same kind of thing. It is easy to switch to an electric instrument, but much more difficult in reverse, so I play acoustic all the time, even during these forays into electric guitar.’
A superbly inventive technician on both instruments, he is first and foremost a jazz player, but has remained open to influences from rock, r‘n‘b, Indian classical music, and Flamenco. His fascination for the latter, he explained, ‘actually goes back even before jazz. I remember when I was about fifteen and already passionate about
Flamenco, I heard Miles’s Sketches ofSpain album, especially the track
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he did with Gil (Evans), Blues/0r Pablo, and I flipped out. I was already a big fan of Miles, but to hear the way he had taken this blues feeling and merged it with ﬂamenco was really something.‘
Indian music. though, has ‘the only school of music apart from jazz which has a highly developed system ofimprovisation. You cannot dabble in Indian music, you have to go all the way in, but there is so much to be learned from them, both musically and spiritually.’
The trio which McLaughlin brings to Edinburgh will have a new bass player from the line-up which lit up the Glasgow Jazz Festival last year. but retains the crucial contribution of percussion maestro Trilok Gurtu, a musician who McLaughlin felt possessed “the musicality, ﬂexibility and spirit‘ required by that enduring but unforgiving format. ‘When I heard him,’ John adds, 'I felt that we were meant to play together. The fact that Trilok is Indian is a plus for me, because it gives us another way to communicate, through my study ofIndian music.‘
Perhaps oddly, it is the first such trio McLaughlin has ever led (although he has played with guitarists Paco de Lucia and Al
Dimeola), but it proved well worth the wait. McLaughlin is a genuine artist, technically astonishing, but eschewing gratuitous expertise in favour of making musical sense of the immediate musical context. while Gurtu is the perfect percussionist for the band. combining the rhythmic urgency ofa drummer with more exotic colourations from his unique kit.
Since forming the trio last year, McLaughlin has gone on to perform his Guitar Concerto with the LSO. adding a further new strandto the complex weave ofhis music. There is, though. a common thread running through it.
‘You can‘t be anyone else. and the most important thing for me is to be myselfas completely as possible, to know who I am and what I feel about my place in the world, because that is ultimately where my music comes from. The roots of my music are in my life, and it is the most important thing for me. It supports me materially and it supports me spiritually. Music supports me in every way.‘
John McLaughlin Trio, Queen '5 Hall, Edinburgh, 1 Dec. 8.30pm.
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I The Band of Holy Joy: Evening World Holiday Show (Rough Trade) With a logo that could easily be mistaken for Barclay James I larvest. Bl lJ nevertheless come on like a meeting between Dexy's and warbling. speed-fuelled Morrissey. This is prime Bi 1]. in that l had to go back through the last album before I could be convinced I hadn't heard it before. Bad sign. (AM)
lThe Dinner LadieszTree to Breathe EPtHannibal)
Are The Dinner Ladies
gnashing their teeth because The Beautiful South are having all the hits‘.’ Perhaps they should. They create a pleasing concoction with piano, clarinet. cello and guitar. and two of the tracks are lyrically strong: ‘Lancashire Life‘, a portrait of a woman at the end of her days. and ‘Up on the Moors‘ which expunges rural life ofits romance. While just as good musically. the weepy ‘Waterman‘ and the environmentally- concerned ‘l Need a Tree to Breathe' let the side down a bit. (AM)
I The Butthole Surfers: WidowermakerEP(8last First) Lurking behind the sleeve of the month, and just waiting to lunge out after a deceptively tranquil. gurgling intro, it couldn't be anyone else but the Surfers. the band that refused to fall in alongside the hardcore wave. .\'ot their best, but a cut above any other surrealist gibberish around. (AM)
I Various: White Soul Plague (Rumpus) £1 .99 + 24p fromJ Flyte, 309 Great Western Road. Glasgow GZU. The title says it all, and the four bands from the Glasgow Bands (‘o-op see themselves as — what'.’ The rough whiteunderbelly of the Glasgow soul scene'.’ lf 1 could work out whatThe Tremens are ranting about in ‘Westenders'J might have a better idea. but the lines that slip through are tantalisingly funny.
However. Eyes of Rita standoutamilewiththeir ‘ contribution. a wedge of left-field pop which sounds as though they've every intention ofplaying venues larger than back rooms ofpubs. (AM)
The List 24 November— 7 December 1989 31