John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension | The Boston Record | Review
The biggest blessing that jazz music has brought to the world is it’s ability to tie different cultures, places, and musical ideas, all bound together by one common unity; love. Guitarist John McLaughlin, a pioneer of the jazz-fusion movement and continuation lets his music thrive in a state of flexibility that had lead him to brilliant collaborations with other craft masters worldwide. McLaughlin’s impressive career reveals a pivotal purpose of exploration and always reaches for more questions rather than answering old ones. His contributions to 20th century music are invaluable. His primary focus for the nearly a decade has been his 4th Dimension Project, that has withstood a few personnel changes and strengthened since its inception, with a growing original repertoire and fantastic virtuoso players. Critics and fans alike received McLaughlin’s 2012 release Now Here this affectionately. Great new originals added depth to the already vast and brilliant McLaughlin catalogue. Alongside the guitarist is Gary Husband whose multi-instrumental virtuosity brings keyboards alongside drums, twelve-string bassist Etienne M’Bappe, and drum master Ranjit Barot. The group has been touring strong, and was captured last year at a particularly perfect night of music at Berkelee College of Music Performing Arts Center on June 22nd, 2013. The 4th Dimension has released the live recording, McLaughlin’s first in fourteen years, as The Boston Record.
These nine tracks that clock in at just over an hour, display the real diversity of a McLaughlin concert and his current chemistry with this phenomenal band. Since Barot joined four years ago, this group has bonded deeply and is creating thriving compositions driven by some improvisation while adhering to a stronger rock backbone that some old-school McLaughlin fans might be surprised about. Right from his opening rock riffs of “Raju” the listener doesn’t have to wait long for some heavy jamming. Barot’s fills are reminiscent of Billy Cobham’s work with Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s a natural agreement between jazz and rock. McLaughlin’s solos are never indulgent but build momentum from the empty space that allots them. “Little Miss Valley” is a big feel-good groove, throwing back to the 50s archetypal rock sound before blasting off into some real bluesy interludes, giving fretless electric bassist Etinne M’Bappe his chance to fill with bliss. “Abbaji” is tied together with the inspirational chant of “love and understanding,” an overlaying mantra toward McLaughlin’s approach as a musician. “Echoes From Then”, perhaps the best of the heavier rockers from Now Here This, is given an extensive workout, featuring piano and guitar elaborations that 4th Dimension fans will go crazy over.
Gary Husband’s synth and piano fluidity on “Senor T’s” weaves right in with John’s weeping guitar flutters, creating a delicate centerpiece to the recording. “Call and Answer” does just that. The guys bounce back and fourth with ideas so intermingled that the word solo wouldn’t describe it properly. Folks familiar with Now Here This will have an incredible companion piece with this live release. The momentum that McLaughlin, Husband, M’Bappe and Barot have built together since the studio recording less than two years ago is captured in essence. The Latin-soul flavor of “Maharina” is the perfect tempo to follow. McLaughlin’s contemporary approach welcomes soundscapes of many varieties to flow into his live concerts. The grooviest cut off the Boston Record comes with Hijacked. Simply put, you need to hear it. The dexterity and speed of the main theme rivals Al Di Meola’s “Race with the Devil on the Spanish Highway,” before plunging into some serious pocket jams again showcasing M’Bappe’s virtuosity. The show fittingly ends with the Mahavishnu Orchestra classic “You Know You Know” tying together a night of mainly newer material.
Devotes in the U.S. know how rare it can be to catch McLaughlin live in concert, and for those who haven’t heard the 4th Dimension live, this is their perfect door of accessibility. Cross your fingers for an extensive U.S. tour and in the meanwhile sink you teeth into what will probably be the most important live jazz release of the year.