by Richard L. Matteson Jr.
One of the most celebrated guitarists alive, John McLaughlin, will perform with his trio, The Free Spirits, on Thursday, February 22, at 8:00 p.m. at Reynolds Auditorium. McLaughlin will be teaming up with drummer Dennis Chambers and organ prodigy Joey DeFrancesco on a tour to promote his new album, The Promise. The concert is part of the Piedmont Classic Guitar Society's Winter/Spring Series.
"Were getting ready for the tour," said McLaughlin in a telephone interview from Polygram Records' headquarters in New York. "The release of my new CD, The Promise, is just days away (Feb. 6). The new album was recorded in New York, Tokyo and London. There are appearances by some great musicians...saxophonists Michael Brecker and David Sanborn, drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dennis Chambers, also Sting, Jeff Beck, Paco de Lucia and Al DiMeola."
McLaughlin helped pioneer jazz-rock in the early '70s, recording three albums with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. His Birds of Fire album and subsequent tour with the Jeff Beck group brought him to the forefront as a pioneer of jazz fusion, a combination of rock and jazz. McLaughlin sold hundreds of thousands of albums and performed sold-out concerts when he played.
The 53-year-old English guitarist then formed the Indian-based Shakti. His acoustic wizardry continued in the early '80s when he teamed up with Al DiMeola and Paco de Lucia to record two albums for Columbia Records. He has written and recorded his "Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has recorded an album with the Synclavier, a digital guitar.
"I played piano when I was a kid," said Mclaughlin. "When I was 11 I fell in love with the guitar. I read music and loved the blues...I learned tunes from my gramophone and played some fingerstyle and with a pick."
"When I was 15 I heard Miles Davis," McLaughlin recollected. "That changed my life. Miles was a beautiful man but he was much maligned by the press. When I was in New York Miles heard me play with Larry Young and I eventually appeared on several of his albums."
"Some other influences include Django Rhinehardt, Tal Farlow, Jim Hall and John Coltrane," he continued. "I take my hat off to Django; he only had two fingers on his left hand."
John McLaughlin and the Free Spirits is a relatively new group that features veteran drummer Chambers and Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond organ. The band released the 1993 debut Tokyo Live, before McLaughlin teamed with DeFrancesco and drum legend Elvin Jones for the recent Verve recording "After the Rain." The organ trio represents McLaughlin's long anticipated return to the electric guitar.
"We'll be doing some straight-ahead jazz and covering selections from the new recording," revealed the legendary guitarist. "If you listen to "Thelonious Melodious" on The Promise, it features John, Joey and me. This recording also brought Paco (de Lucia), Al (DiMeola) and me together after 14 years. We've decided to tour Europe this summer. My next CD should come out of that tour."
For ticket information contact the Piedmont Guitar Society at 910-650-9522.
Thursday, Feb. 22