down beat, August 1994, pg 58

BLINDFOLD TEST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

by Josef Woodard


1. TAL FARLOW. GIBSON BOY
(from LEGENDS OF GUITAR, VOLUME 1, Rhino).



The soloist has to be Tal Farlow, but who is he playing with? Farlow has a very lyrical way of improvising. I haven't listened to him for years, but I recognized him from the first note because of his sound. He certainly had an effect on me. The only guy who played like him was Jimmy Raney. But this is definitely Tal. We've all got our stock phrases. As soon as you play them, you betray yourself. That's not a criticism. It's just the way it is. I thought it was him, but I wasn't sure because I never heard Tal play with another guitarist before. Star rating? 3 1/2 stars. I've heard Tal play better. This piece is a little too discreet.



2. AL DI MEOLA. EGYPTIAN DANZA
(from CASINO, Columbia).



It's Al Di Meola, right? Al's a peculiar kind of phenomenon. He's a guitar player with amazing technique and unbelievable means on his instrument. But one thing I always miss in Al's playing is America. He's American, but I don't hear much of his culture in his music. On this track the music sounds Greek, then Argentinian. He plays cultural hopscotch. It's not so much that I want Al to play straight jazz here, but I'd like to hear more American influences in his music. Technically, he gets a 4. But I have to take off a star for lack of roots.



3. FRANK SINATRA. NIGHT AND DAY
(from SINATRA AND SEXTET: LIVE IN PARIS, Reprise).



That's Frank. I'm crazy about him. Frank just grabs me. You can hear the guitar in the background. Cling, cling. It's very nice, but Frank's a monster. It's his phrasing. He's so elegant and so eloquent. This is a cheap trick asking me to listen to the guitarist. He does accompany Frank admirably, but it's difficult for me to identify him. The chords he uses are all standard voicings. That's disappointing because Frank deserves better. With a little work he could have made some nice substitutions. Basically, this guy's just reading his part. He didn't do enough work to accompany my man Frank. So, Frank gets 5 stars; and the guitarist 3 - he gets 1 star off for a bit of clumsiness in the middle and at the end, and another for not working hard enough.



4. DEREK BAILEY. SCALING
(from LEGENDS OF THE GUITAR - JAZZ, VOLUME 1, Rhino).



This guy should take his guitar to a luthier and have him work on it for a week. If it's not prepared guitar, his instrument needs an overhaul. This piece is pretty meaningless to me. Contemporary music has a tendency to deform tonality as we know it. So very little appeals to me unless it's by someone like Julian Bream, who plays a beautiful instrument with a beautiful tone. Who is this? I know Derek. He's a charming guy. He's been doing this spontaneous, free improvisation all his life. But this doesn't say anything to me. There's no meaning, no rhythm, no tone, no melody, no swing. So what's left? Emptiness? Chaos? I'm not against chaos. I think the chaotic principle is very important in life because it has a lot to do with the unpredictible. But this piece is predictable right to the end. I'm sure he's playing with strong intention, but unfortunately it doesn't reach its mark in me. 1 star.



5. KENNY BURRELL. OUT THERE
(from SUNUP TO SUNDOWN, Contemporary).



I have no idea who this is. But whoever it is, he doesn't have it together on this track. The soloing is very jerky. The phrasing is awkward. There are lots of stops and starts. I think the piano player has it together more than the guitarist. I'll give this 2 stars for the effort.



6. RONNY JORDAN. BAD BROTHER
(from THE REBIRTH OF COOL, 4th & Broadway/Island).



Is this Ronny Jordan? Very curious. He's done a dreadful version of Miles' "So What," but at least he's playing Miles' music. As for this track, I like the opening a lot. In spite of my own reservations, I like what he's doing. I'm intrigued by the combination of conceptions he's working with. But he hasn't developed stylistically yet. On this track, he's playing like a poor man's Wes Montgomery. Plus, instead of the disco beat, I'd like to hear something a little more revolutionary. If he's going to make advances conceptually, why not get someone like Prince to really set him on a radical path? Stars? Musically, it's pretty boring. I'll take 2 stars off for that. I think he should work on his instrument more. It's not good enough to just play Wes' licks today. You've got to be your own man. So I'll take off another star. Which leaves him 2. But conceptually, it reminds me of my crazier days. And I admire him for that. So, plus 1 star. That gives him a 3.