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John McLaughlin

One of fusion's most virtuosic guitar soloists, John McLaughlin placed his blazing speed in the service of a searching spiritual passion that has kept his music evolving and open to new influences. Whether shredding on electric or simmering quietly on acoustic, McLaughlin's intensity and underappreciated versatility have nearly always kept his playing vital, and his best moments -- whether as a solo artist or bandmember -- represent some of fusion's greatest recordings.

McLaughlin was born January 4, 1942, in Yorkshire, England, and began playing guitar at age 11. Initially attracted to blues and swing, he worked with British artists like Georgie Fame, Graham Bond, Brian Auger, and Ginger Baker. McLaughlin formed his own band in 1968, and recorded the excellent debut Extrapolation in early 1969. Later that year he moved to New York to join Tony Williams' groundbreaking fusion band Lifetime, and appeared on the classic Emergency! Through Williams, McLaughlin was invited to join Miles Davis' band, and became an important part of fusion landmarks like In a Silent Way, B**ches Brew, and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. In 1970, wanting to explore acoustic and Eastern music, McLaughlin recorded the classic My Goal's Beyond; he soon left Davis, and after one further solo album, Devotion, McLaughlin spent some time woodshedding.

He re-emerged in 1971 as leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a seminal band that did much to define and popularize early jazz-rock fusion, as evidenced by the albums The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Pausing to record Love Devotion Surrender with Carlos Santana in 1972, McLaughlin led Mahavishnu until 1975. Returning to spiritual preoccupations on My Goal's Beyond, he then formed Shakti, which fused acoustic jazz with Indian music over the course of three albums. McLaughlin returned to his solo career in the late '70s, forming a backing outfit called the One Truth Band, and also recording the guitar trio albums Friday Night in San Francisco and Passion, Grace & Fire with fellow fusion burner Al di Meola and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. As the '80s went along, McLaughlin experimented with classical-jazz hybrid composing; there was also a short-lived Mahavishnu reunion in the mid-'80s.

In the 1990s McLaughlin continued to record steadily in both electric and acoustic groups. He signed to Verve, where he would remain for 13 years. Some of the more notable albums from that period include the acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans in 1993; After the Rain with Elvin Jones and Joey DeFrancesco in 1995; and 1996's The Promise, which featured the guitarist in a number of settings, including a reunion with his acoustic trio partners di Meola and de Lucia, and a trio with DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers. The drummer was also a part of McLaughlin's final album of the decade, Heart of Things, a furious bout of electric jazz.

The 21st century found McLaughlin in another nostalgic mood, releasing Remember Shakti: The Believer, a live set featuring the guitarist (playing electric guitar) with electric mandolinist U. Shrinivas, kanjira and ghatam player V. Selvaganesh, and legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain. While it wasn't a Shakti album proper, it nonetheless echoed that group's intricate and amazing rhythmic and harmonic breakthroughs. The group toured and released Saturday Night in Bombay a year later. McLaughlin's Euro-classical-leaning Thieves and Poets appeared in 2003. In 2004, WEA in Germany issued the massive 17-CD box set of McLaughlin's Montreux Concerts, which featured performances recorded between 1974 and 1996. Industrial Zen, released in 2006, was a mixed-bag recording where the guitarist's ambitions ran wild. It was his final album for Verve.

In 2008 McLaughlin issued Floating Point, an extension of many of the concepts on Industrial Zen, on the Abstract Logix imprint. The final track on that album was entitled "Five Peace Band"; it served as the name for a supergroup assembled by McLaughlin and Chick Corea for a one-off world tour. The other members were saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride; an album of the same name was released in 2009 on Concord. To the One, a studio album with his 4th Dimension band, was released on Abstract Logix in the spring of 2010. McLaughlin resurfaced two years later with Now Here This, featuring new 4th Dimension drummer, Ranjit Barot. ~ Steve Huey & Thom Jurek, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


My Goal's Beyond... a masterwork.
First took flight with him in the Inner Mounting Flame. I don't think he has touched down since. What a fine musical artist.
A musical legend and beautiful spirit, I first saw him at an outdoor amphitheatre in Goa India in around 1984, their first trip back to India after many years, it was magical
John is in a class all by himself... at the very top!
ABBAJI rocks !!! Classic McLaughlin !!
Rocks real mellow !!!! FLOW
I saw The Mahavishnu Orchestra in Oklahoma City in or around 1974 playing in front of Boz Scaggs and the headliner was The Guess Who. Talk about as wide a music range as you can get- that was it. Didn't know anything about John McLaughlin at the time, but I'll never forget that concert.
This guy is phenomenal. I was introduced to his music in the early 70s and never tire of listening to him and his fellow musicians.
I was making a connecting flight from Chicago to Minneapolis in 2008, and was a little confused if I was on the right flight, since there were 7 gates in one spot...a guy was walking onto the plane right behind me, and I asked if this was the flight to Minneapolis, and then I stopped myself, and said of course this is the right flight, because you're John McLaughlin, and you're playing at The Dakota tonight. He was surprised that i recognized him, but we talked a little as we went to our seats.
trancendent. . .
Great stuff, from a true giant. McLaughlin is one of the legends that is still with us.
John McLaughlin fourth demencian
philippepelu s o
What a Giant! He re-defined speed and dexterity...
Apocalypse was a spiritual masterpiece. The best blend of classical and fusion I have heard to date. Ponty and Walden were excellent as well. But John is in a league of his own. Great!!!
Sounz like electric waterfall with moonlight reflecting off and numerous important historical bystanders. Dynamic and besutiful
His best song? In My Life, on Inner Worlds.
Terrible. I mean awesome. No terrible! Great playing but terrible sound mix. There is no groove on Five Peace Band because the bass is so buried in the mix. Even on the bass solo, the drums are louder and annoying. Plenty of guitar and drums which are great but sound crappy without the bass presence. Oh well. It's good but I can't listen to it.
Saw the Guitar Trio in the mid 80's in New Jersey... J.McLaughlin , A . D i M e o l a , P.DeLucia..t h r e e acoustics for a full 75 minute set ...Oh by the way, Steve Morse as the opener. Joined them at the end for an encore set.... Wowser
I love jazz/rock fuzion. He was even my guitar teacher's inspiration.
@jfree0758: I'm glad that you mentioned the Jack Johnson album. KILLER stuff by Miles the Master and, of course, JMc. ............ . . . . . . . . . . . . . C h e c k him out in the Mahavishnu Orchestra (sp?).
john can cure all that pains you....
Miles' Tribute to Jack johnson = punk jazz at its most raw, Mc. plays simplified ,charged stuff, in addition to all the other styles he has hyper extended
On It's Funny - Loving the out-ness meets the in-ness... appreciation at its' finest.
saw him in the early 70's incredible guitar player, this music is timeless, hear some of the drumming by Billy Cobham who was with him at the time,
Two words... Johnny Mack is one of the true guitar legends of all times. You name it he has been there, and gone.
I've been playing guitar for 43 years and John McLaughlin is truly the epitome of a "guitar god" in my book. His truly uncanny ability to blend blistering speed, lyrical melody and tonal experimentat i o n into a truly spiritual experience puts him into a totally different caliber than other guitarists. "Brilliant", "genius" and "virtuoso" are highly understated when describing this master of strings IMHO
New, nice and quick fingers
McLaughlin is one of the few guitarists that is able to blend astonishing speed with lyricism. ...a skill that is lost among most of the younger players today.
sunlightcall e r
mahavishnu and zappa, nassau coliesum the 70's - imagine that. I was there
Saw him 2010 towne hall nyc with his band the fourth dimention Gary Husband was with him awsome show
John McLaughlin is one of the most inspiring musicians of all time. A true master and seeker. He never fails to astonish and beautify the Heart, Soul and Mind.
Maha Central Park 1973 The Best!!
the goombah of soul was lucky to have seen maha or. at least 15x and shakti at central park. if your old enuf you were lucky to hace seen cool shows. would have liked to have seen the bebop masters though in the early 60s. didnt see bop till 1970 its all good. have a wonderful relationship and love for all kinds of music and yes back in the day tix were cheap fillmore east schaeffwer music fest cen park nyc and the capitol th passaic nj gullivers college gigs acadamey of music nyc vill gate b
John shed light on a whole new way to place the electric and acoustic guitar within an ensemble. He pointed the way for so many people. He still rips it up live. How awesome is is comping. Favorite rhythm guitarist ever. His leads are melodic and angular. He never ceases to amaze me with his phrasing. I could go on and on with lavish praise but I'm sure there are lots of people that hate it. Good, smaller venues and no lines to get a beer or take a piss at his concerts. More for us likers. Yum
Nice comments all. McLaughlin is one of the finest guitarists of all time; he actually can do almost anything he wants. Fine interview on AlJazeeraEng l i s h some time back. As he says in that interview, he would like to be remembered as a pretty good guitarist. He is all that and more. Wish I could be at Montreux when he plays with Santana in July, '11. As for discography, who cares, they could fill the whole page.. He is much better to listen to live, and I had the pleasure of seeing some.
Have always been a fan. Saw John and the maha orc with Jeff Beck in LA. Outstanding guitarists, great musicianship .
Saw him with Al and Paco back in 82 I think with another Guitaristbes t in the world he could make his guitar sing
yeah - saw him 3 times in the early '70s around DC. pinned your ears back while he blew your head off. plays & composes dreamy melodies & straightahea d jazz, too. no limits - what a talent!
Saw Mahavishnu @ The Albey Theater in Cincy in the early 70's. The theater is no longer there, but I will never forgot how good they were. We were blown away, they were tremendous.
Went to see maha @ miami fronton in early 70's. 4 bucks a ticket. Not a big crowd, so the heads that were there were for real fans. Back then it was still ok to have diverse tastes and an open mind. Nice to see we're finally getting back to that- at least with music.
Regret that I never saw mahavishnu. Did experience shakti. was backed by jan hammer group with fernando saunders. f&m 77
The album list here misses "Molom: a legend of mongolia" a soundtrack to movie of the same name. It was beautiful, rythmic and mysterious. Bringing together himalayan chanting, bells and the guitar. A fantastic if unrecognised movie and soundtrack.
A fine guitar player!
I saw Mahavishnu at UCONN in the early 70's with Billy Cobham. They where awesome. At that time he was a disciple of Sri Chinmoy as was Carlos Santana. Once I saw John and Carlos play acoustic guitars together and that was more subtle but great. Wow!
jamesburts53 7
To JDT I agree 100 percent! I never got see Mahavishnu but I did get to see Billy Cobham several times. I'll never forget it.
The Mahavishnu is my second favorite band of all time..... I saw john at the blue note in nyc. i was close enough to see the pores on his skin. it was awsome. I like zeppelin and the dead about as much.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra with McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty and Billy Cobham were just pheeenomenal . I saw them in 1972 at Trenton State College in the auditorium which had great acoustics and I was just blown away. Those were the days my friend, the 70's, we wished they had never ended.
Look up The Mahavishnu Project, an incredible 'so much more than a cover band' and see them live if at all possible. As powerful as the original lineup.
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