The Heart of Things

COMPOSERS: John Mclaughlin
LABELS: Verve
ALBUM TITLE: John Mclaughlin
PERFORMER: John McLaughlin (el g); Gary Thomas (ss, ts, flute); Jim Beard (kybds); Matt Garrison (el b); Dennis Chambers (d); Victor Williams (perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 539 153-2

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One of the first to fuse jazz and rock, guitarist John McLaughlin often returns, albeit in different guises, to the music he pioneered alongside Miles Davis in the late Sixties. This group occupies similar territory to his last combo, the tough trio Free Spirits. By moving up to a sextet, adding saxophones and synth, McLaughlin has rounded off some of that sound’s sharp edges.

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The tunes are not memorable: as with so much jazz rock, the build up and release of tension through hot licks is more a priority than is melody. But the set contains some clever multi-tempo vehicles for the soloists and McLaughlin, urged on by Chambers’s furious accompaniment, keeps his ‘notes-per-minute’ counter high in the red zone. Gary Thomas, nimble and articulate, digs into some hair-raising chorus swapping with the leader. This is McLaughlin at his urbane best, yet playing at the limit. Garry Booth