Berklee President Roger H. Brown presented an honorary doctor of music degree to groundbreaking guitarist, composer, and band leader John McLaughlin on July 10, during the commencement ceremony for the graduate programs at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. McLaughlin also performed as a special guest at the commencement concert at the Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia.
McLaughlin is a jazz fusion maestro whose extensive work as bandleader is complemented by his work with fellow stars such as Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and Paco de Lucia. He was at the vanguard of the cross-cultural jazz surge of the 1970s, drawing on Indian music influences with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti.
“The role of music is today what it has always been in the past,” he said in his acceptance remarks. “It is the universal language of love, both human and divine. Music is our highest form of collective unity, since in any given concert there will be Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists, all under one roof, enjoying music.”
He added, “Whatever we give to music with love and dedication is repaid a thousand times in ways that defy categorization. To be a musician is one of the greatest privileges.”
At the commencement ceremony, 137 graduates from 30 nations received master of music degrees in music production, technology, and innovation; scoring for film, television, and video games; and contemporary performance with a concentration in production; or Master of Arts degrees in global entertainment and music business.
The ceremony also celebrated the Valencia campus’ fifth year, during which time the campus has hosted more than 1,500 students from 71 nations and granted $4 million in scholarships to graduate students.
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.
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 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.
Seven Secrets brought together the seminal 11th House fusion band, one of the finest jazz-rock bands in the 1970s. Unfortunately, Larry Coryell died in February 2017 so it’s probably the last album Coryell made as band leader. Equally sad is the passing of Alphonse Mouzon, who died two months earlier, in December 2016.
The lineup is impressive, featuring the original 11th House musicians plus Larry’s son, guitarist Julian Coryell.
Fusion sounds great with guitars and keyboards. If you add a brass instrument, the trumpet works the best and this is what you get here. Along with superb solo and rhythm guitar, the album features masterful trumpet virtuosity. And the rhythm section is equally impressive, featuring creative drumming and bass lines.
The material ranges from cutting edge jazz-rock fusion to irresistible funk jazz pieces showcasing the talent of all the musicians.
The lineup on Seven Secrets includes Larry Coryell on electric and acoustic guitars; Julian Coryell on electric guitar; Randy Brecker on trumpet; John Lee on bass; Alphonse Mouzon on drums and keyboards. The only guest is Dennis Haklar on acoustic guitar on one piece.
Seven Secrets is an exceptionally good fusion album by two generations of remarkable musicians.
Jazz, rock and fusion guitar sensation Nicolas Meier will be touring the United States for the first time in June 2017. The band line-up includes Swiss-born, London-based Nicolas Meier on acoustic guitar and glissentar, Pat Bettison on bass and harmonica, and Demi Garcia on percussion.
Nicolas Meier toured extensively in the past with the formative Jeff Beck Group. Meier’s latest solo album “Infinity” is an outstanding recording that crosses rock, jazz and world music boundaries. It was released in October 2016 on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations’ label. The album includes bassist Jimmy Haslip on bass and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
June 15 – New York, NY (The Iridium)
June 16 – Pittsburgh, OH (PGH Winery)
June 17 – Cleveland, OH (Nighttown)
June 18 – Chicago, IL (Martyr’s)
June 25 – Denver, CO (Swallow Hill)
June 26 – Denver, CO (Swallow Hill – workshop)
June 28 – San Francisco, CA (Savanna Jazz)
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.
Larry Coryell, one of the finest jazz fusion guitarists in the United States passed away on February 19, 2017 of natural causes.
He was born in Galveston, Texas on April 2, 1943 although he grew up in the Seattle, Washington area. His mother introduced him to the piano at the age of 4. Coryell later switched to guitar and played rock music while in his teens.
By 1965 he had moved to New York City and started taking classical guitar lessons. He was inspired by 1950s rock and roll, jazz guitarists and 1960s rock bands.
In the late 1960s he started fusing jazz with rock and psychedelic music. In late 1969 he recorded “Spaces”, the album for which he was most well-known. It was a spectacular guitar celebration that also included fellow guitarist John McLaughlin who was also exploring the territory between rock and jazz at the time. The album featured Miroslav Vitous on acoustic bass and Billy Cobham on drums.
In 1973, Coryell formed seminal jazz-rock band Eleventh House. The group released Introducing Eleventh House with Larry Coryell (1974), Level One (1975), Aspects (1976) and Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House at Montreux (1978).
Throughout the next decades, Coryell worked with some of the best jazz and rock musicians, releasing numerous recordings.
Coryell’s most recent albums were Night Of Jazz Guitars (In & Out Records, 2010), Montgomery (Patuxent Records, 2010), Duality (Random Act Records, 2011), The Lift (Wide Hive Records, 2013), Heavy Feel (Wide Hive Records, 2015)
Culcha Vulcha (Ground Up Music) by fusion band Snarky Puppy is the winner of the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album Grammy Award at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
The album features a mix of jazz, rock, funk, soul, Brazilian music and blues.
The other finalists were:
Human Nature – Herb Alpert (Herb Alpert Presents)
When You Wish Upon A Star – Bill Frisell (Okeh Records)
Way Back Home: Live From Rochester, NY – Steve Gadd Band (BFM Jazz)
Unspoken – Chuck Loeb (Shanachie Entertainment)
Renowned French violin maestro and jazz-rock fusion pioneer Jean Luc Ponty and his band will touring the United states in 2017. The ensemble will present the “Atlantic Years” tour starting in late May .
“We’re calling it ‘The Atlantic Years’ tour since I am touring with my band from the late 70’s – 80’s with whom I recorded several albums for Atlantic Records,” says Jean Luc Ponty.
The Jean Luc Ponty Band includes Jean Luc Ponty on violin; Wally Minko on keyboards; Jamie Glaser on guitars; Rayford Griffin on drums; and Baron Browne on bass.
2017 US tour dates:
May 30 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater
May 31 – Seattle, WA – The Neptune
June 01 – Eugene, OR – John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts
June 02 – Los Angeles, CA – The Saban Theater Beverly Hills
June 04 – San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom
June 05 – Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre
June 07 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – The Coach House
June 08 – Agoura Hills, CA – The Canyon
June 09 – Scottsdale, AZ – Center For the Arts
June 10 – Las Vegas, NV – Allante Casino
June 14 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
June 16 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
June 17 – Austin, TX – One World Theatre
June 20 – Chicago, IL – City Winery
June 21 – Detroit, MI – Chene Park
June 23 – Niagara Falls, NY – Seneca Niagara Casino
June 24 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Performing Arts Center
June 25 – NYC – B.B. King
Guitar virtuoso and innovator Al Di Meola is set to perform on February 7, 2017 at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Al Di Meola talks about his upcoming concert:
You’ll be starting the Elegant Gypsy Tour 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. What’s the repertoire you’ll present there?
As this is the 40th anniversary of Elegant Gypsy we revisit the hay day of fusion with songs from Elegant Gypsy (obviously), Casino but also some Return to Forever pieces and newer compositions.
Which musicians will accompany you on this tour?
Philippe Saisse who was in my first solo band will be back on keyboards, I have my friend over 30 years Gumbi Ortiz on percussion, Luis Alecia on drums, Elias Tona on bass and violin prodigy Evan Garr on violin
What guitars will you be playing?
I change between Gibson and PRS. For the acoustic set in between, I play a Conde Hermanos cutaway.
You collaborated with Paco de Lucia in the past. Is there any chance you’ll collaborate with the new generation of Spanish flamenco players?
Yes, I do and I often include Flamenco players in my shows in Spain. But so far I never found the magic again that Paco and I shared when we were playing.
In addition to your new album Elysium, what other projects are you working on?
I’m working on new music, I’m writing in my studio in Miami and will be recording later in the year.