Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

John McLaughlin: Guitars and Poets

John McLaughlin

Sparks are flying off the Town Hall stage in Manhattan as John McLaughlin and Remember Shakti, his band of remarkable Indian virtuosi-U. Shrinivas on electric mandolin, Zakir Hussain on tablas and hand percussionist V. Selvaganesh on kanjira, ghatam and mridangam-dig into another raga with heightened intensity. At the peak of this heated jam, they engage in lightning-quick exchanges, tossing notes back and forth with such commanding precision and staggering speed that the concert hall erupts into a thunderous ovation. Caught up in the incendiary moment, the fantastic four seem to be levitating a foot above the stage as the most ardent fans in the house, from the balcony seats to the front row, leap to their feet in amazement, urging Remember Shakti on with a raucous wave of cheers.

In one of the front rows, McLaughlin’s six-year-old son Lucas takes it all in with awe. He’d probably rather be back home in Monte Carlo swimming or playing tennis or soccer, but right now his eyes are glued on Dad, who just happens to be one of the greatest guitarists on the planet. In previous incarnations of Remember Shakti, McLaughlin played a Johnny Smith fat-bodied jazz box and later an old Gibson ES-345 from his late ’70s One Truth Band days. These days he’s wielding a new ax-a Canadian Godin electric guitar equipped with a MIDI attachment that lets him trigger all manner of sonic washes and textures while simultaneously burning up the fingerboard.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.