John McLaughlin & Paco de Lucia: Paco and John - Live at Montreux 1987 it's truly a shame that, all too often, artists with diverse careers become pigeon-holed, defined by the primary genre in which they first achieved notoriety. Take guitarist John McLaughlin, for instance. Ask most jazz fans about him and what will first come out of most of their mouths will include either the words "fusion," "jazz-rock" and/or Miles Davis, in any permutation/combination (not that there's anything wrong with that). Those a little further in the know might also be aware of his longstanding investigation into the nexus of eastern and western music with his Indo-collaboration, Shakti.
Two years after they recorded Friday Night in San Francisco, John McLaughlin, Al di Meola and Paco de Lucía reunited for another set of acoustic guitar trios, Passion, Grace and Fire, If this can be considered a guitar "battle" (some of the playing is ferocious and these speed demons do not let up too often), then the result is a three-way tie…
New version of the Paco de Lucía Integral, 27 CDs his complete work remastered. "Cositas Buenas", his last album, comes as a new in this new Integral. Now in a new economic format. This collection is a unique tour of the work of Paco de Lucia from 1964 to 2004. Flamenco is not improvised: everything is carefully rehearsed. Every falseta, every step of the dance, although it may appear spontaneous is based on conscientious preparation. Flamenco artists are not fans of improvisation in their public performances; only in the dance are small spaces left. In the singing and above all the guitar there is no place for improvisation.
At this point, it is easy to see that the John McLaughlin story has become a peripatetic journey of electric-acoustic switchbacks, with the formation of the One Truth Band that plays on this LP being just another short chapter in the saga. And this time, McLaughlin is thoroughly in charge: there is little of the competitive dueling or tightly drilled, high-volume unison lines of the past; it's the guitarist and his sidemen, although sometimes keyboardist Stu Goldberg steps out with some wicked chops. McLaughlin returns Miles Davis' favor of naming a piece on Bitches Brew after him by turning the tables, and indeed, "Miles Davis" often has the loose, jamming feeling (and a quote of "It's About That Time") of the maestro's own jazz-rock sessions.
Since John McLaughlin's first two post-Shakti albums – Electric Guitarist and Electric Dreams – featured the word "electric" in their titles, it seems that the guitarist wanted to emphasize his more plugged-in side to those who might not have followed along on three previous releases featuring his acoustic world music band. He also thumbed through his impressive phone book to call in some of the cream of the 1977 crop of jazz fusionists to help him out on Electric Guitarist, a true return to form. Ex-Mahavishnu members Jerry Goodman and Billy Cobham assist in kicking things off just like in the old days with "New York on My Mind," a tune that could have been an outtake from his earlier Mahavishnu Orchestra work.
Though this fitfully inspired yet always intelligently musical record is an electric album, McLaughlin is more often heard on acousticintet, along with bass and drums, contained two keyboard players, Francois Couturier and the noted classical pianist Katia Labeque (who was McLaughlin's companion). Labeque, seated at a Synclavier and a grand piano, has acres of technique and almost no feeling for jazz, though she is adept at providing moody backdrops, and her rapid-fire synth runs and Jarrett-like etudes on the Steinway aren't too far away stylistically from McLaughlin's helter-skelter flurries. In a continued homage to McLaughlin's once and future employer Miles Davis, "Blues for L.W." brazenly quotes "Blues for Pablo," and sometimes the music texturally resembles the heavily synthesized things that Miles would soon be putting out.
Recorded in 1981, this is a diverse and somewhat obscure John McLaughlin outing recorded in France, mostly with French musicians. Classical pianist Katia Labeque makes appearances on acoustic piano and synthesizer; there is a thoughtful version of "Very Early" recorded in tribute to Bill Evans, and a collaboration with flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, "Manitas d'Oro." In general, McLaughlin is in fine shape on this worthwhile set, both on acoustic and electric guitars, occasionally showing some fire.
Essential: a masterpiece of fusion music
The day I heard these three musicians, I was literally "combed back." Well, is that this concert became part of the essential in guitar history (long before fashion "unplugged").