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John McLaughlin: Thieves and Poets

The poster boy for fusion, John McLaughlin-make that poster man; he’s 61 now-has finally completed an ambitious autobiographical project many years in the making: Thieves and Poets (Verve). It adds new dimensions to the word fusion. Orchestrated by one of his former students, Yan Maresz, for a chamber ensemble, the title-track suite went through various metamorphoses as a full symphonic score, then a ballet score, and finally, by the summer of ’02, it was completed and recorded by the I Pommeriggi Musicali di Milano orchestra, with various solo players added later in a Monaco studio. Its three movements, according to McLaughlin, represent a geographical fusion of Old World, New World and “the joyful unification of both worlds.” That said, “Thieves and Poets” is 26 minutes of lush standards, introspection and bombast, beautifully composed, luxuriously orchestrated, and notable for the impressive solo playing (with frequent nods to his Indian influences) by McLaughlin. The second half of the CD is devoted to some gorgeous arrangements by McLaughlin of four standards, with the guitarist backed by, and soothingly absorbed among, a quintet of guitars. It’s McLaughlin at his acoustic, romantic best.

Originally Published