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Thread: John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

  1. #1
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    John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

    I'm curious to know what other people have thought of John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension (especially the Town Hall show in NYC).

    Unfortunately, I was so fried (after 10 days straight at work) that my brain was not in good shape for the show. I was exhausted, so I don't know if my perception of the show is "accurate". I thought it was good, and had some thrilling moments, but I came away a little under-whelmed.

    John appeared to be in great shape, and all the players were excellent, but it seemed like they were just going through the motions some of the time. To be honest, it was my first time seeing McLaughlin, and I was hoping for something like the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The 4th Dimension seemed to lack the fire and cohesion of Mahavishnu.

    But again, I was NOT in good shape for the show, so I'd love to hear what other people thought.

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    McL & 4D

    Agreed, underwhelming. Liked all the players, esp Gary Husband and Ferraud's lines were interesting. But the tunes were not challenging. Nearly everything was a four-beat.

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    I saw the Chicago show and thought it was really good. Hadrien was unreal on bass, and I liked Gary Husband's contributions. McLaughlin was great, but he only "blew me away" once or twice. Overall I liked it. Just being able to see McLaughlin in the States is reason enough to celebrate.

    Rich
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichM View Post
    I saw the Chicago show and thought it was really good. Hadrien was unreal on bass, and I liked Gary Husband's contributions. McLaughlin was great, but he only "blew me away" once or twice. Overall I liked it. Just being able to see McLaughlin in the States is reason enough to celebrate.

    Rich
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    Hadrien most definitely has INSANE chops...but is it just me, or does he lack a certain "musicality", if you know what I mean? I felt like his solos were often just unrelenting barrages of notes, almost like some shredder practicing scales. Speed is awesome, if used effectively, but if that's all you've got?

    I thought Husband's keyboard playing was often excellent, but I hated most of the sounds he employed. I much preferred the piano sound he used near the end of the show. I wish he'd just stuck to piano, electric piano and organ sounds...I also thought it was a little annoying the way he'd jump over and start bashing his drums the second Hadrien started his solo. He seemed like a hyper-active kid a lot of the time.

    In any case, I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I've finally seen John McLaughlin, but I wish I hadn't been so fried....

  5. #5
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    The NY Times has a review of the show:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/29/ar...=1&oref=slogin

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    I picked up the "official bootleg" from Abstract Logix, which is an earlier show of the same group(Maybe 9/15 show). I fell asleep listening to it- it was very underwhelming to be kind. I'm a fan of McLaughlin, but this is not one of his better efforts

  7. #7
    AAJ's Big Nose jkelman's Avatar
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    AAJ's six-part coverage of the tour resumes today with Part 4, the Montreal show from Oct 2. Parts 5 and 6 (Ottawa tonight, Toronto tomorrow) will be up over the next few days.

    It's been a real blast (and a privilege) to get the opportunity to do this series.

    Best!
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by PHILLYQ View Post
    I picked up the "official bootleg" from Abstract Logix, which is an earlier show of the same group(Maybe 9/15 show). I fell asleep listening to it- it was very underwhelming to be kind. I'm a fan of McLaughlin, but this is not one of his better efforts
    The Official Bootleg is from Durham, North Carolina, September 13, the opening night, FYI. Don't judge the whole show by this - it's only a little over half of it. It was mixed and pressed the overnight after the show, and personally I think it's a good, but by no means complete, representation of what we heard.

    FYI all shows have been recorded, and I understand that, after the tour is over, John McL will be listening to everything to decide what he considers fit for release. So better documentation, and from better shows (the first show was great, but based on Montreal on Tuesday, they've come a long, long way since then) should be on the way at some point.

    Best!
    John

  9. #9
    Registered User NewJazz4Mike's Avatar
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    I'm a looooong time fan of John McLaughlin, and credit him more than anyone for getting me into jazz. For over 3 decades I've heard McLaughlin in every NYC concert possible - Mahavishnu, Shakti, you name it. The only McLaughlin appearance I knowingly missed was the Mahavishnu show on August 18th 1973 in Central Park... but only because my wedding was that day, and I had at least caught them the night before on the 17th. Anyone else here who else can claim a Mahavishnu concert as their bachelor party?

    All that said, I can only express extreme disappointment at the Town Hall show that we went to last week. McLaughlin is apparently as skilled as ever with a guitar, but hearing him play in that style, with that band, and in that setting was very difficult for me... rather like placing a priceless diamond into a cheap tin setting. There was nothing at all memorable (except in a negative sense) about any of the compositions or the performances - it was bland, homogenized, and predictable. If McLaughlin ditched the keyboard player, and cut about 90% of the bass player's solos, it might have made the performance tolerable. I guess its just me, but a synthesizer going whooooooo-whooooooo, just doesn't impress me. The bassist had obvious technique, but once you heard one of his solos, you've hreard them all. by the third song they performed, I cringed whn McLaughlin turned over the spotlight to the bassist. The drummer is a real pounder - more bombast than finesse - he'd probably be better suited for arena rock music. There's nothing inherently wrong with powerful drumming - I loved Billy Cobham before George Duke got him all funked up.... but this guy Mondesir is no Billy Cobham! Oh, and that reminds me of the totally inane drumming support that the keyboard player added to the rhythm when he wasn't whooooooo-ing us with his synth.

    Maybe I expect too much. Maybe one can never really go back. Perhaps I'm too "spoiled"... but I hear live music in venues from the Village Vanguard to Lincoln Center, and it was difficult not to feel that the "rock concert" ambiance of the show was another element of the show that denigrated the talent and legacy of one of the world's finest musicians. My wife had her bag searched by a security guard at the entrance! We're in our mid 50s and really quite tame looking, and this goon practically stuck his head into her purse and stirred things around with his flashlight! I should have turned around and gone home right then. Then after the music began, I had to turn around to ask the two morons behind me to stop SCREAMING at each other during the performances. As incredible as it seems, one of them even gave me a hard time about asking them to shut up. Like, wow, man. I realized after a while that he was in the right place, I was not. His mentality seemed more appropriate to the level of sophistication and expression being presented on stage.

    It was a heartwrenching experience for me - I expected so much more. I was one of the surprisingly few who gave John a standing ovation before the show started, but I ended up walking out a little over an hour into the set - and i can't recall another performance I've ever walked out of early.

    It was just a real shame for me to hear McLaughlin this way.

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    Saw the Ottawa show tonight....

    I agree with some of the other comments about the homogenized sound. For the opening songs I felt I was time warped back back to the mid-80's listening to some Miles Davis backup band, with the heavy keyboards and electric bass. (In fact one track did sound like "Jean Pierre" or something of that vintage, although I could be corrected on that... a setlist would be nice).

    However, either they loosened up a bit, or perhaps I did, and I enjoyed the last half of the show very much.

    Picked up the official bootleg and popped it in a bit for the car ride home. Sounded a bit flat but that could be my hearing recovering from the volume. Swapped it for "Extrapolation" (also picked up at the show) and that was much more satisfying.

    Great setting for the show: gig was in a church.

    Crowd was very responsive... noticed a few walkouts but by and large I think most people went home happy.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by NewJazz4Mike View Post
    All that said, I can only express extreme disappointment at the Town Hall show that we went to last week...If McLaughlin ditched the keyboard player, and cut about 90% of the bass player's solos, it might have made the performance tolerable. I guess its just me, but a synthesizer going whooooooo-whooooooo, just doesn't impress me. The bassist had obvious technique, but once you heard one of his solos, you've heard them all. by the third song they performed, I cringed when McLaughlin turned over the spotlight to the bassist....Oh, and that reminds me of the totally inane drumming support that the keyboard player added to the rhythm when he wasn't whooooooo-ing us with his synth.

    It was a heartwrenching experience for me - I expected so much more.
    Dude, you cracked me up with the "whoo-whoo" line!

    It's amazing to me how clearly you expressed my feelings and thoughts about the show. I guess I was a little afraid to come out and pan the show as scathingly as you did, but you have the cred to do it. You saw Mahavishnu in its freakin' prime! (Lucky bastard.)

    It's good to know that I wasn't alone in thinking that Hadrien is NOT the next Jaco and that Gary Husband needed a sedative (or two). My opinion of Mondesir's drumming was higher than yours, but I agree, he's no Billy Cobham.

    During the show, I kept wondering what it would have been like if McLaughlin had someone like Bill Bruford on the drums, and maybe someone like Jeff Berlin on bass. THAT would be a fusion power trio to behold.

    Well, I guess even the greats like McLaughlin have their off nights...and their weaker projects.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    It's amazing to me how clearly you expressed my feelings and thoughts about the show. I guess I was a little afraid to come out and pan the show as scathingly as you did, but you have the cred to do it. You saw Mahavishnu in its freakin' prime! (Lucky bastard.)
    Well, I'm not going to get into a fight here, since my coverage makes it absolutely clear that I'm digging the hell out of this tour, but I do want to make a few points. And I, too, saw Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1972, so I've got a yardstick. Difference is, I'm not applying it, whereas, with all due respect, there are folks who were hoping for the second coming of Maha, and that just wasn't going to happen.

    For one thing, McLaughlin has become a much more lyrical player in recent years, and I'm good with that. He can still rip it up (and did), but uses space far more now, and I'm a big fan of that approach.

    Gary? he's coming from a Zawinul space in some respects, but I think y'all dismissed him far too quickly. check out his two solo piano cds, the most recent being interpretations of McLaughlin material (review here) and you may be surprised at what you hear. I liked a lot of his synth work.

    Hadrien? He's young, but the reason John McL calls him the new jaco, if you read the interview, is not because he plays like him, but because he has his own conception. If you listen to his debut album on Dreyfus (review to come soon from yours truly), you'll hear that. As for one solo sounding like the next? Even Jaco had certain predictable patterns (like that 16-th note groove thing he did). Hadrien will certainly mature over time, but at the moment he has great hands, the kind of ears that can hear something once and catch what it's about, and a solo conception that - were you to slow it down, - really is surprisingly focused and melodic itself.

    Mark? He's interactive, able to groove from swing to funk (which he did more of later in the tour, so maybe not as obvious in NYC.

    As for the material? A mix of old and new that I thought was a fine balance. Nostalgia sounded, to me ears, way better than '80s Mahavishnu, Mother Tongues kicked ass harder than I've ever heard it, and the adaptation of two Shakti tunes (Raju, 5 Peace Band) were great, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    It's good to know that I wasn't alone in thinking that Hadrien is NOT the next Jaco
    No, but who cares? I think he's got a lot of promise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    and that Gary Husband needed a sedative (or two).
    Funny, didn't find that at all, and perhaps later in the tour, when they were more comfortable with each other, I heard something different than you did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    My opinion of Mondesir's drumming was higher than yours, but I agree, he's no Billy Cobham.
    And the point is? Why should he be a Cobham. I hard some folks compare him (albeit favorably) to Dennis Chambers, but again I think Mark sounds like neither. If anything, there's a lot of Tony Williams in there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    During the show, I kept wondering what it would have been like if McLaughlin had someone like Bill Bruford on the drums, and maybe someone like Jeff Berlin on bass. THAT would be a fusion power trio to behold.
    Love both, would love to see it, but don't see it being any better than this, only different.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Escamilla View Post
    Well, I guess even the greats like McLaughlin have their off nights...and their weaker projects.
    And having not been in NYC I can't comment. Only that, based on Durham and especially the three Canadian dates I've done, I'd hardly call this a weaker project; frankly, I think it's got potential to be one of his stronger electric projects. But I'm not a fan of comparison, and really do wish folks would stop already with the Mahavishnu. Man, that was 35 years ago, and John's light years ahead of that in how he plays now....

    Respectfully in complete disagreement (!)
    John

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    John, "with all due respect" - it seems like you're trying to justify your own effusive praise of this band by criticizing other people's opinion of the music. And in your references to my comments, you're making some hefty assumptions. Looking for the second coming of Mahavishnu? That's quite a presumptive and patronizing remark. If my opinion doesn't match yours, it must mean I'm looking for the second coming of Mahavishnu? Although I heard Mahavishnu many times, I wasn't comparing them ONLY to Mahavishnu. As I stated, i heard McLaughlin in as many different styles and formats as he's ever toured with... and to my ears, this is the blandest and least inspiring music I've heard him produce. Thats not an opinion formed out of any prejudice or pre-expectations - I was fully hoping and expecting to be blown away. I looked forward to this show more than any in recent memory.

    So if you think this Fourth Dimension band is the future of jazz or the most innovative band McLaughlin has ever toured with - good for you! Your rebuttals, however, do not show the "respect" to other's opinions that you assert. You say you don't want to get into a fight, then you pick out generalized comments and dissect them line by line! Please, huh?

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    I've heard this drummer play pretty crisp "bop" on as small drumkit. I imagine he was playing to suit the band.

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    John Mc Laughlin is one of the most complete and creative musicians alive...I would not expect to hear him do the Mahavishnu thing at this point in time..Its old news. You never know what the latest installment of a Mc Laughlin project has in store. Has anyone checked out the the recent DVD he has put together regarding Rhythm? Simply Fantastic.....

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