Kicking off this evening’s set with a high-octane crash through Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Trilogy’ from 1972 was always going to be a crowd-pleaser – and this quartet of astonishing virtuosi are more than up to the job: John McLaughlin, at 77, still maintains a luxuriant silver mane and considerable chops; Anglo-Indian drummer Ranjit Barot has an extremely loud and belligerent attack clearly informed Billy Cobham’s world-shaking muscle; black-gloved Cameroonian bassist Étienne M’Bappe is precise and funky; and keyboardist Gary Husband revels in pitch-bent synth solo madness.
Surprisingly, though (and despite McLaughlin’s introductory promise of a few oldies), this opening salvo is tonight’s only track from the 1970s heydays – unless you include ‘Echoes From Then’ from the 4th Dimension’s 2012 album, Now Here This, which deliberately evokes the early days of jazz-rock and fusion. There are breezy versions of two different tracks by Pharoah Sanders – ‘Light At The Edge Of The World’ and ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’, the latter providing a showcase for Barot’s soulful vocals – but other than that, the majority of tonight’s tunes are drawn from the 1990s onwards, with a healthy selection from the 4th Dimension’s own catalogue.
‘Abbaji’ (from 2008’s Floating Point), is dedicated to the great tabla player Alla Rakha, and highlights Barot’s ability to mix western jazz and rock stylings with complex traditional Indian rhythms, with the drummer engaging in lightning-tongued konnakol rhythmic vocals while Husband counts the complex tala with handclaps. Husband – who first came to McLaughlin’s attention as drummer for Allan Holdsworth – wastes little time getting behind the second kit and smashing out a heavy drum solo, later sending the energy rocketing with a furious drum battle with Barot.
Throughout all of the testosterone-drenched frenzy, McLaughlin remains calm and composed, a rather humble legend with nothing left to prove.
– Daniel Spicer
– Photo by Tatiana Gorilovsky (www.TatianaJazzPhoto.com)