I just watched an old YouTube video of John McLaughlin live in concert from the 90’s. God I used to love his playing. The fierce technique, be it on an electric guitar or acoustic. This concert, he was playing with Dennis Chambers and Joey Defrancesco and boy were they tearing it up. I have long felt that McLaughlin was a different kind of creature from other guitarists. It always seemed like he was trying pummel fellow musicians into oblivion so there would be more space for him and his playing. None of that mamby pamby, “we’re all artists here, let’s make beautiful music together”. I think there was a competitive nature to his thought process. More like, “you better bring it otherwise I’m going to face-plant you with my virtuosity!” That’s what I loved about him.
What I’ve also always enjoyed about his playing is that he would love to pull out bluesy rock licks and intersperse them at different points in his soloing. Especially loved to do it in pieces that were more straight forward jazz or Shakti type world music. In my opinion, it’s that back to basics approach that set him apart from the rest. I think it was him remembering his roots. Bravo!!
I follow him on Instagram and occasionally he posts photos from the past. In one, he’s backstage with Al and Paco AND Steve Morse waiting to go on stage. It had to be around Steve’s early Dixie Dregs days. Awesome! And then another one from the 70’s/80’s with Narada Michael Walden, who was definitely another musical hero of mine growing up. Both with McLaughlin and Jeff Beck - Wired. Great, great music.
And just when I thought the old boy was too old to still do it, to my pleasant surprise, he posted on his IG account that his new recording is about to be released. All 75+ years is still doing it, playing with top cats and tearing it up. Ok, so maybe not as well as he used to but still making musical magic. Awesome. Can’t wait to hear it. Thanks John!!