John McLaughlin

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This is the text of the only English-language review (to our knowledge) of the gig in Ubud on Sunday 18th October. It was published in the paper edition of the Jakarta Post today here.

Mark Heyward (Contributor/Ubud)

A concert in Ubud, Bali, brought together two leading jazz-fusion guitarists, Dewa Budjana from Indonesia and John McLaughlin from the UK.

The title of the concert – Duaji and Guruji — was apt. In guitarist Dewa Bujana’s words, “Duaji is what people call me in Balinese and means someone who’s become a father to their children, while Guruji means a guru, a teacher, a role model.”

Dewa, aged 52, is well-known for his career with rock group Gigi and in Indra Lesmana’s ethno-jazz group Java Jazz,  and for his solo jazz albums.

John McLaughlin, now 73, began his career in 1962 playing blues and jazz-beat. He was also a session player for the Rolling Stones, among other bands. In 1969 he moved to the USA, where he played with Tony Williams’s Lifetime and with Miles Davis on the seminal jazz-rock albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

McLaughlin became the Master, Guruji, with the release in 1971 of the first Mahavishnu Orchestra album, The Inner Mounting Flame, which has influenced scores of musicians since.

Forty years later, and Dewa Budjana has that same power to move audiences with spiritually-infused jazz-fusion.
Dewa’s many albums reflect his Balinese Hindu heritage. Hinduism is another connection with McLaughlin, who was given the name Mahavishnu by his yoga teacher Sri Chinmoy.

Ubud’s Arma Museum provided the perfect venue for the Oct. 18th concert. Adjacent to the Balinese art gallery is an open field bordered with tall trees and a stage with a Balinese temple backdrop. For this occasion, a huge translucent, multi-layered screen was installed.

The sounds and scents of Bali filtered through: a distant cacophony of barking kampung dogs, a chorus of cicadas high in the trees, clatter and chatter from the bar at the rear, a whiff of kretek cigarettes, sandalwood incense and frangipane. Above, the night sky threatened rain and somewhere among the clouds a waxing crescent moon drifted.

Following an excellent warm-up by the Bali Guitar Club on a small side stage, the lights in the main arena dimmed and a glittering night sky was projected onto the backdrop. Dewa Budjana strolled onto the stage wearing a Balinese udeng (head cloth), picked up his guitar, and the music began.

From the outset, the mood was relaxed: Dewa was playing to a home crowd. The band slipped comfortably into the groove: Martin Siahaan, a keyboard player from Sumatra; Shadu Rasjadi, a Jakarta-based six-string bass player; bamboo flautist Saat Syah, sporting a Kalimantan Dayak cap and jacket; and Balinese drummer, Yandi Andaputra, just nineteen.

“I used to play with his mum,” explained Dewa, referring to Yandi. “She was the singer in my high school band.”

The music was drawn from Dewa’s several jazz albums, each piece a statement in its own language, each exploring its own musical themes, but each blending into a whole – as if the evening were a story, a narrative, comprised of a series of chapters.

As the band played, the screen behind the performers came alive with shifting images, early films of Balinese village life, rippling images of batik, of Balinese carving in stone and timber, geometric patterns that flowed and flashed with the music, an image of the temple backdrop that created a childlike blurring of reality and fantasy. This was an immersive experience.

When the pattern for each piece was bedded down, room for soloing was found. Employing a range of instruments, traditional and experimental, and a range of techniques, at times turning the instrument on its end, Saat Syah’s flute solos were exceptional.

Dewa’s own solos were as extraordinary as they were understated. And the whole thing was underpinned by Yandi’s solid yet equally playful rhythm, occasionally breaking out into showy solos.

John McLaughlin’s band, The 4th Dimension, was a delight: Paris-based five-string bassist Étienne M’Bappé from Cameroon, drummer Ranjit Barot from Mumbai in India and pianist/second drummer Gary Husband from Leeds in the UK. “Near where I was born in Yorkshire,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin’s signature guitar style set the tone from the beginning of his set, a thick, heavy tone with rapid-fire bursts of melody. The guitarist strode about the stage in a no-nonsense kind of way, at times facing the rear, giving directions to the band, or riffing with the bassist or keyboard player and, at other times, leading from the front. Like Dewa’s set, the pieces were full of drama, full of energy, color, passion and surprise, a mix of old and new.

Across the generations and from opposite sides of the planet, this meeting was a natural fit, music was the common language. It was a lost and enchanted evening, a night for the heart not the head. Duaji and Guruji, the Father and his Master, played together under a Balinese sky: two stars, a light at the edge of the world.

— Terry Collins contributed to this article.

‘Big’ Jim Sullivan  was one of the busiest session guitarists ever, playing on over 1,000 top ten hits in the UK including 50 chart toppers. In 1999 (?), he had this to say about John McLaughlin: “In my opinion, John is one of the finest and most innovative jazz guitarists this century. We were good friends early on in our careers, from 1958 onwards, but in 1971 we lost contact. I have always kept up with his career and known that he was the one who would stand out from the rest of us. When I started to study Indian music he became enthralled in the rhythm aspect.”

Read on and listen to this track from 1967, and remember Shakti.

In tracking down the … erm … tracks in this downloadable  compilation,  I am indebted in particular to the compiler of this page which is associated with Colin Harper’s book Bathed in Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond, which is reviewed here by John Kelman.

If you look through the names of the other musicians who’ve had lasting careers, then you’ll appreciate the fertile ground of the sixties jazz and blues scene in the UK.

It is known that in 1962 John McLaughlin played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, although I cannot determine if he was present in this live recording of the BBC Jazz Club on July 12th. This was introduced by Humphrey Lyttleton, who introduced the Danny Thompson Trio with ‘Johnny’ McLaughlin in 1967, which I posted here. Alexis Korner’s drummer in 1962 was Charlie Watts, later, and still, the drummer in the Rolling Stones. So, the question is begged: who was the drummer in the Stones gig that same night?

Having a wide selection to choose from, I’ve opted for current ‘listenability’, although Tony Meehan’s Combo may be the exception which proves the rule.

These tracks are in chronological order according to recording date(s).

01. Graham Bond Quartet: Untitled Abbey Road Blues
Recorded on 16th May 1963
Graham Bond: organ
John McLaughlin: guitar
Jack Bruce: bass
Ginger Baker: drums

02. Tony Meehan Combo: Kings Go Fifth
Recorded: c.25-27 November 1963
Tony Meehan: drums
Joe Moretti: lead guitar
John McLaughlin: rhythm guitar
John Baldwin: bass
Chris Hughes: soprano sax, clarinet
Glenn Hughes: baritone sax

03. The Night-Timers featuring Herbie Goins: Yield Not To Temptation
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, 1965
Herbie Goins: vocals
Mike Eve: tenor sax
Harry Beckett: trumpet, flugelhorn
Dave Morse: organ
John McLaughlin: guitar
Dave Price: bass
Bill Stevens: drums

04. Alexis Korner: Mary Open The Door
fr. A New Generation Of Blues 1966
Alexis Korner: vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Ray Warleigh: flute
Danny Thompson: string bass
Terry Cox: drums
John McLaughlin did not play on this track written by Duffy Power, but he did play on
05. Duffy’s Nucleus: Mary, Open The Door
Recorded: London, probably mid 1966
Duffy Power: vocals, harmonica
John McLaughlin: guitar
Jack Bruce: bass
Ginger Baker: drums
+ unidentified horn section

06. Georgie Fame: Don’t Make Promises
Recorded: London, ?/66
The B side of the hit single Sunny, which John also played on.
Other players areunknown but, hey, I’m very happy to hear this again.

More tracks were recorded in December 1966 with Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers

07. The Gordon Beck Quartet: I Can See For Miles
fr. the album Experiments With Pops, a fascinating deconstruction of popular hits of the day.
Recorded: Lansdowne Studios, London, December 7th 1967
Gordon Beck: piano
John McLaughlin: guitar
Jeff Clyne: bass
Tony Oxley: drums

08. Georgie Fame: This Is Always
fr. The Third Face Of Fame
Recorded: London, February/March 1968
Georgie Fame: vocals, piano
Ian Hamer, Derek Healey, Derek Watkins, Les Condon, Albert Hall: trumpets
John Marshall, Gib Wallace: trombones
Tony Coe, Tommy Whittle, Art Ellefson, Harry Klein, Ronnie Scott, Cyril Reubens: saxes
Gordon Beck: piano
John McLaughlin, Terry Smith: guitar
Harry South: conductor

09. Ken Wheeler & the John Dankworth Orchestra: Sweet Dulcinea Blue
fr. Windmill Tilter
Recorded: London, mid March 1968
Ken Wheeler: flugelhorn
Tony Coe: clarinet, tenor sax
John McLaughlin: guitar
Dave Holland: bass
John Spooner: drums

10. Jack Bruce: HCKHH Blues
fr. Things We Like
Recorded: IBC Studios, London, August 1968
Dick Heckstall-Smith: soprano & alto saxes
John McLaughlin: guitar
Jack Bruce: bass guitar
Jon Hiseman: drums

11. Sandy Brown and His Gentlemen! Friends: Manchester, England
fr. Hair At Its Hairiest
Recorded: London, December 23-27, 1968
Sandy Brown: clarinet
Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, flugelhorn
George Chisholm: trombone
John McLaughlin: guitar
Lennie Bush: bass
Bobby Orr: drums

12. John McLaughlinThis Is For Us To Share
fr. Extrapolation
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, 16th January 1969
John McLaughlin: guitars
John Surman: baritone sax, soprano sax
Brian Odges: bass
Tony Oxley: drums
Shortly after recording this, his first album under his own name, John set off to the USA and joined Tony Williams Lifetime and Miles Davis for the In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew sessions. The rest, as they say, is history.

In December 1970, just as the Tony Williams Lifetime were grinding to a halt, two of its members,  John McLaughlin and Jack Bruce, took part in sessions for Carla Bley’s self-funded triple album Escalator Over The Hill. Documentary-maker Steve Gebhardt filmed some of the album’s long gestation and this glimpse, of John and Jack rehearsing with Carla and drummer Paul Motian was included.

Before he found fame with Miles Davis, and later with his Mahavishnu Orchestra, in the late sixties when many others had graduated from the UK’s blues groups scene and taken the psychedelic or prog-rock route, John McLaughlin entered the jazz world.

And now fifty years later he is coming to Indonesia … whoopee … but playing on a Sunday in Bali means that many of us in Jakarta won’t be at the gig.

Here are a couple of sessions from his early jazz days.
1966 – Mike Carr Trio (venue unknown)
1967 – Danny Thompson Trio (BBC Jazz Club)
The Mike Carr folder has information about both sessions.
(Note: this is not an album, but a compilation.)

Here are program notes about the Danny Thompson Trio from a gig TC was at on 13th March 1968.
I consider them to be the most important emergent small group in jazz since the Gerry Mulligan Quartet.
– John Dankworth, who had ‘Ken’ Wheeler in his Ensemble that night.