Sunday, November 20, 2016

The John McLaughlin Trio, 1989

This fine John McLaughlin Trio concert was recently unearthed amongst my VHS tapes. Even if the tape contained absolutely no information, either on it or on the filmed concerts, as TV stations usually do (adding a logo, a date, end credit), it's not hard to guess it's coming from the 1989 European tour whose London wing (November 27, 1989) was recorded as Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

My second guess is that the concert is filmed at Continental Europe, most likely Germany. (If it's actually from 1989, then its Stuttgart gig can be viewed here.) Furthermore, the footage is from only the first set of the concert and even this first set is incomplete, missing the first song which is Blue in Green by Miles Davis.

There is a tight, often exciting interplay between the players whose performances are interlocked in more than oe way: John McLaughlin on acoustic guitar, Kai Eckhardt-Karpeh on electric bass, and Trilok Gurtu on percussions. Even for someone who is not so keen on acoustic guitar/electric bass combination in a jazz context, in which case I'm one of them, Gurtu is adding enough textures to make the music completely worthwhile. Surprisingly, the music is more leaned towards composition rather than the improvisatory traditions McLaughlin had previously demonstrated in his live concerts.

The music played on this 1989 tour was also reviewed favourably by Richard Cook and Brian Morton:

"Twenty years on, with Lifetime, the Mahavishnu Orchestra(s), Shakti, the One Truth Band, and a wobbly 1980s mostly behind him, McLaughlin again sounds on good form, punching out rows notes which are almost as impressive for their accuracy as for their power. Eckhardt is a subtler and more involving player than his predecessor, Jonas Hellborg, and Gurtu, as with the revivified Oregon, gives excellent value. The themes are no longer as obviously visionary and Eastern-influenced and the guitarist seems content to re-run many of the stylistic devices he had adopted from the days with Miles Davis through the ringing harmonics of Shakti and back out into a more obviously jazz-grounded idiom. These days, though, they have a clear organic function in the music. Less indulgent than formerly, McLaughlin can afford to let his strengths show through."

The video is below and the songs are:

Belo Horizonte
Just Ideas/Jozy
Three Willows
? [Solo guitar]/Mother Tongues

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