Tag Archives: electric guitar

Artist Profiles: John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

In a career that has spanned over 4 years John McLaughlin has been part of or led some of the most important movements in jazz and music. His compositions are now being treated with the reverence of classical music pieces and being interpreted the world over musicians of many varied genres.

John McLaughlin was born January 4 1942 in Doncaster, Yorkshire in England. The guitarist is well known for his eclectic taste in music. McLaughlin was a child when he first fell in love with jazz and the blues and he was just 11 years old when he began studying and playing the guitar.

The 1960s found him playing jazz rock and blues in his native England where he worked with Alexis Korner and Ginger Baker among others before moving to New York at the end of the decade.

McLaughlin had a busy year in 1969. He recorded his debut album Extrapolation and started working with two seminal voices in early fusion: Tony Williams (who employed McLaughlin and organist Larry Young in his trailblazing group Lifetime) and Miles Davis. Never afraid to forge ahead Davis had done a lot to popularize cool jazz and modal post-bop in the past and he continued to break new ground when he introduced fusion on his 1969 sessions In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew both of which feature McLaughlin’s playing. The guitarist was also featured on 1970’s A Tribute to Jack Johnson another Davis gem of the time.

Like bebop in the 1940s and modal jazz in the early 1960s fusion was controversial. Jazz purists felt that rock and funk rhythms had no place in jazz but thankfully McLaughlin disagreed and let his musical instincts guide him.

After participating in Davis’ and Williams’ groundbreaking fusion combos McLaughlin founded an influential group of his own in 1971: The Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion’s first super group. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that still has a unique influence today. The band included some of the finest contemporary jazz instrumentalists of the time: violinist Jerry Goodman (later Jean-Luc Ponty), keyboardist Jan Hammer (later Gayle Moran and Stu Goldberg), bassist Rick Laird (later Ralphe Armstrong) and drummer Billy Cobham (later Narada Michael Walden). The Mahavishnu Orchestra combined electric jazz and rock with Indian influences.

 

 

By the time Mahavishnu broke up in 1975 it had recorded several classic albums for Columbia (including Birds of Fire, Between Nothingness and Eternity, The Inner Mounting Flame, Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond) and gone down in history as one of the 1970’s most influential fusion ensembles.

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Between Nothingness and Eternity

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame

 


The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Apocalypse

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions of the Emerald Beyond

 

In 1973 collaborated with Carlos Santana on the album Love Devotion Surrender dedicated to their guru at the time Sri Chinmoy. They covered John Coltrane pieces including the classic “A Love Supreme” (with chanting) and several Mahavishnu compositions.

In 1975 McLaughlin did the unexpected by founding Shakti an acoustic group that employed traditional Indian musicians including tabla player Zakir Hussain violinist L. Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s nephew), T.H. Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam) and earlier Ramnad Raghavan (mridangam). The group released Shakti with John McLaughlin and A Handful of Beauty.

 

Shakti – Shakti with John McLaughlin

 

Shakti – A Handful of Beauty

 

Shakti underscored the guitarist’s interest in India’s music culture and religion. Shakti reminded listeners that McLaughlin was as appealing on the acoustic guitar as he was on its electric counterpart and proved that he wasn’t about to confine himself to playing any one style of music exclusively.

Indeed McLaughlin was heard in a variety of musical settings in the 1980s everything from a brief Mahavishnu Orchestra reunion in 1984 to an acoustic guitar summit with Al DiMeola and Flamenco legend Paco de Lucia in 1982 (The Guitar Trio) to a classical album with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988. At the same time McLaughlin was also at the forefront of technology using the first guitar synthesizers.

McLaughlin was no less eclectic in the 1990s when his Verve projects ranged from 1993’s acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans (a tribute to the late pianist) to sessions featuring organist Joey DeFrancesco (1993’s Tokyo Live) and an acoustic McLaughlin/DiMeola/de Lucia reunion in 1996.

It was in 1997 that McLaughlin reunited with Zakir Hussain and a reconfigured version of Shakti for several U.K. concerts that were documented on Verve’s two-CD set Remember Shakti. In the subsequent years John has releasedAfter the Rain with Elvin Jones and a career retrospective titled The Promise as well as the live The Heart of Things and most recently Industrial Zen.

In 2005 he created a revolutionary guitar instructional DVD This is the Way I Do It that has met with universal praise. Today he continues on his musical journey by once again delving into yet another musical form that combines all of his past experience with as of yet unlearned knowledge.

I’m a guitar player that’s what I am primarily that’s what I’ll always be‘ McLaughlin has been quoted as saying. ‘(And) I’m an eternal learner. I don’t want to stop learning because I feel that no matter what I’ve done; I’m really just beginning again. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.’

In 2010 he received the reputable German jazzahead! Award. The award honors the activities of artists in the vibrant and distinct musical language of jazz.

In 2015 McLaughlin released Black Light featuring 8 original McLaughlin compositions including a tribute to his departed colleague collaborator and friend Paco De Lucia, with whom McLaughlin had intended to compose an album’s worth of new material just before De Lucia’s untimely passing. McLaughlin returned to acoustic guitar for a tribute to his friend titled “El Hombre Que Sabia”.

The rest of Black Light is electric showcasing McLaughlin’s band the 4th Dimension, “my three favorite musicians,” said McLaughlin. The 4th Dimension is composed of multi-instrumentalist Gary Husband on keyboards and drums, Etienne Mbappe on electric bass and drummer Ranjit Barot.

website: www.johnmclaughlin.com

The Continuing Journey of Rahul Mukerji’s Guitar

Rahul Mukerji – Ma De Re Sha (Rahul Mukerji, 2017)

Ma De Re Sha is a great electric guitar album by Rahul Mukerji, an Indian musician living in the Washington D.C. area. Mukerji combines powerful rock guitar hero licks with jazz-rock fusion, Middle Eastern beats and Indian music influences. He also uses a note bending technique that gives it a South Asian flavor and sets him apart from western guitar players.

The lineup includes Rahul Mukerji on guitars, guitar synth, e-bow, sampling, tabla and drum programming; Bruce Ng on additional drum and percussion programming on all tracks; Ruben Rubio on bass.

Buy the CD from rahulmukerji.bandcamp.com/releases

Electrifying Ethnomission

Tohpati Ethnomission – Mata Hati (MoonJune, 2017)

Tohpati Ethnomission is one of the most original and exciting progressive music projects coming of Indonesia. The group is led by guitarist and composer Tohpati.

Mata Hati brings together Indonesian traditional music, first class jazz-rock fusion and elements of progressive rock. Can’t get better than that.

In addition to the thrilling original sounds, Tohpati Ethnomission also features highly-skilled instrumentalists who play some of the finest jazz-rock fusion you’ll find in the current scene.

The lineup includes Tohpati on guitars; Indo Hardjodikoro on bass; Diki Suwarjiki on suling bamboo flute and tarompet (Indonesian shawm); Endang Ramdan on kendang percussion; and Demas Narawangsa on drums. The Czech Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Ruzickova, guests on one track.

Mata Hati is undoubtedly one of the finest progressive music releases of the year.

Buy Mata Hati

Progressive World Music for Troubled Times

Steve Hackett – The Night Siren (InsideOut Music, 2017)

Thanks to his Genesis Revisited progressive rock recordings and tours, guitar virtuoso (and former Genesis guitarist) Steve Hackett is enjoying some of his most productive years. He has recorded albums where he explores various genres with total ease and skill. On The Night Siren he fuses his signature guitar style with a mix of classic rock, progressive rock, folk-rock, world music and various other influences, bringing attention to international turmoil.

Speaking about this recording, Steve Hackett has indicated that he’s always had an interest in multicultural diversity within music. Hackett’s curiosity about other cultures was evident in his early recordings, where he incorporated East Asian, Celtic, and other influences.

On The Night Siren Steve Hackett will take you on a constant unexpected musical ride. Songs that begin pastoral will conclude with knockout guitar solos. Heavy drums similar to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Middle Eastern melodies transform into magnificent prog rock sections. There is also flamenco, Andean charango, fiery blues harmonica, Australian aboriginal didg, and more.

 

 

The album lineup includes Steve Hackett on electric and acoustic guitars, oud, charango, sitar guitar, harmonica, vocals; Mira Awad on vocals; Leslie-Miriam Bennett on keyboards; Gulli Briem on drums, cajon, percussion; Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes; Kobi Farhi on vocals; Dick Driver on double bass; Benedict Fenner on keyboards and programming; Jo Hackett on vocals; John Hackett on flute; Roger King on keyboards and programming; Ferenc Kovács on trumpet; Sara Kovács on didgeridoo; Amanda Lehmann on vocals; Malik Mansurov on tar; Nad Sylvan on vocals; Gary O’Toole on drums; Christine Townsend on violin, viola; Rob Townsend on baritone and soprano sax, flute, flageolet, quena, duduk, bass clarinet; and Nick D’Virgilio on drums.

 

Buy The Night Siren

Guitar Hero and Experimentalist

Lelio Padovani – “Waves” (2016)

“Waves” is a four-track EP by guitar maestro and composer Lelio Padovani. He plays instrumental guitar rock with a progressive edge. Picture Steve Vai or Joe Satriani playing progressive rock-oriented music.

Padovani plays all the instruments on the album and experiments with various guitars. On ‘Time Traveler’ he plays a guitar melody envisioned as a movie score of a guitar player who travels across time using various guitar techniques.

On ‘Siren Song’ you’ll hear a fabulous mix of three guitars playing a melody. Padovani indicates that three are better than one in the liner notes.

‘Sunday’ features admirable solo guitar work and was recorded during a quiet weekend, allowing Padovani to unwind.

The last piece, ‘Waves’ is an experiment based on Rhys Chatham’s concept. Chatham is an American avant-garde musician who created the concept of a guitar orchestra. Here, Lelio Padovani generates a remarkable wave of electric guitars, creating a fascinating cacade of sound featuring numerous guitar layers.

Lelio Padovani plays guitars, bass, drums, synthesizers and virtual string machine.

The album is available from www.leliopadovani.com

Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy 40th Anniversary Tour To Begin in February 2017

Al Di Meola

Jazz fusion innovator, composer and guitar maestro Al Di Meola will continue to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of his Elegant Gypsy Tour with new concerts in 2017 in support of his most recent solo album Elysium. The North American tour begins February 7 in Durham, North Carolina with dates in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, Dallas, Montreal, and more.

Al Di Meola – Elysium

Di Meola has been on tour for most of 2016, presenting new material from Elysium together with old favorites. DiMeola uses acoustic and electric guitars, including his nylon string Conde Hermanos acoustic prototype model and a 1971 Les Paul electric (his Return to Forever and Elegant Gypsy guitar).

The band includes Philippe Saisse on keyboards, marimba; Gumbi Ortiz on percussion; Elias Tona on bass; Luis Alicea on drums; and Evan Garr on violin.

2017 North America Tour:

2/7/17 Durham, NC Carolina Theatre
2/8/17 Charleston, SC Music Hall
2/9/17 Atlanta, GA Variety Playhouse
2/11/17 Orlando, FL The Plaza Live
2/12/17 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Parker Playhouse
2/13/17 Clearwater,FL Capitol Theater
2/14/17 Ponte Vedra,FL PV Concert Hall
2/17/17 Austin, TX One World
2/18/17 Dallas, TX Majestic
2/21/17 Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Music
2/22/17 Kent, OH Kent Stage
2/24/17 Quebec City, Q Palais Montcalm
2/25/17 Montreal, QC Salle Pierre Mercure
2/26/17 Peekskill, NY Paramount

A Wide Range of Exquisite Moods in Morning Sun

Gadi Caplan – Morning Sun (Musea Parallele, 2016)

Morning Sun is the outstanding third album by Israeli multi-instrumentalist Gadi Caplan. On Morning Sun, the Brooklyn-based Caplan combines exquisite progressive rock and fusion inspired by the classic bands of the 1970s with Indian scales, Sephardic music and more.

One of Caplan’s instruments is the guitar. With it, he extracts exquisite electric sounds inspired by Indian classical music, blues, jazz-rock fusion, and progressive symphonic rock. When he switches to the acoustic guitar, Caplan’s music sounds similar to Anthony Phillips’ (former Genesis guitarist) solo works, which combined progressive rock with delicate pastoral folk music. Caplan adds mesmerizing Indian flute, Ladino vocals, and cello, creating new musical combinations in the true spirit of progressive rock.

Caplan delivers a wide range of moods in Morning Sun. Two pieces, “Hemavati” and “Vidadi Swara” have Indian influence. The laid back “Island” has David Gilmour-inspired vocals and Canterbury-type keyboards.

“Good Afternoon” features jazz-soul elements. Meanwhile, the title track “Morning Sun” leans towards acoustic progressive folk-rock-world music whereas “La Morena” begins with echoes of Anthony Phillips and Sephardic vocals, and grows gradually into an epic piece.

On “The Other Side,” Caplan begins with looped guitars and grows into a bluesy progressive piece with early 1970s Pink Floyd influences.

The album ends with a four-part suite, Lili’s Day Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. On Part 1, Caplan injects funk jazz beats and electronic loops along with a synth solo. Part 2 is more jazz-oriented, with distorted saxophone. Part 3 slows down, featuring orchestral drums and an electric guitar solo. Lastly, Part 4 is a gorgeous conclusion to the album with majestic strings.

The lineup on Morning Sun includes Gadi Caplan on guitar, bass, synths, and arrangements; Danny Abowd on lead and background vocals, and trombone; Bruno Esrubilsky on drums and congas; Duncan Wickel on violin, viola, and cello; Jesse Gottlieb on background vocals and trumpet; Jonathan Greenstein on tenor sax; Christian Li on keyboards; and Jay Gandhi on bansuri flute.

Caplan’s previous two albums are Opposite Views (2011) and Look Back Step Forward (2013).

Buy Morning Sun

Prasanna’s Guitar Overdrive

Prasanna – ‘All Terrain Guitar’ (Susila Music, 2016)

Sensational guitarist Prasanna will be releasing his new album ‘All Terrain Guitar’ on August 5, 2016. In this new recording Prasanna masterfully combines jazz with Indian classical music and innovative guitar techniques.

‘All Terrain Guitar’ showcases the talent of this extraordinary guitarist who delivers scorching guitar solos, dazzling musical interplay with his guests and memorable sumptuous melodies. Prasanna is a master at bending the notes, using microtonal slides and modulations called ‘gamaka’, making the guitars sound like a dilruba, veena or other Indian musical instruments.

Prasanna’s guests include Shalini Lakshmi on vocals; Natalie John on vocals; Vijay Iyer on piano; Dave Douglas on trumpet; Rudresh Mahanthappa on saxophone; David Binney on saxophone; Mike Pope on electric and acoustic bass; Bill Urmson on bass; Rodney Holmes on drums; and Mauricio Zottarelli on drums.

In addition to the Carnatic and jazz influences, ‘All Terrain Guitar’ also includes rock, Latin American, electronica and reggae influences. Shalini’s operatic vocals take the music very close to Magma’s sizzling Zeuhl style.

 

Prasanna - Photo by Phil Maturano
Prasanna – Photo by Phil Maturano

 

I feel that ‘All Terrain Guitar’ has the soul to touch people in a simple, direct, and powerful way,” says Prasanna. For him, the essential word is love “… and some sustained feedback on the overdrive pedal.”

 

 

Prasanna is an engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, an internationally acclaimed guitarist in contemporary jazz, rock and blues, a magna cum laude graduate of Berklee College of Music, and a visionary who served as President of a first-rate music college in Chennai, India.

Prasanna has composed music for several acclaimed films, including the 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary “Smile Pinki.”

His previous solo albums include the Carnatic-rock Jimi Hendrix tribute titled ‘Electric Ganesha Land‘ (2006) and the great jazz-fusion album ‘Be the Change‘ (2004).

‘All Terrain Guitar’ is a spectacular Indo-Jazz fusion album by a world class composer and guitarist with an impressive technical expertise.

Buy All Terrain Guitar