Wednesday, May 14, 2008

John McLaughlin, Udine May 11th, 2008

For only 15 euros (and about 90 minutes’ worth of concert) the great John “Mahavishnu Orchestra” McLaughlin touched down in the small town of Udine (pop. 95,000 souls) with his great back-up band, the 4th dimension, a splendid trio of musicians worthy of the ultimate in funk-electro-jazz music (especially drummer Mark Mondesir)! The 66 year-old English jazz-rock guitarist virtuoso, who once played together with another great icon of the world of music, Miles Davis (whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Rome’s Olympic stadium shortly before he died) and was also part of Davis’s epic album “Bitches Brew” (which also has a track named after him), appeared in splendid form, wearing a simple pair of jeans, a short-sleeve shirt and white sneakers. McLaughlin had also once appeared as a sideman for none other than the Rolling Stones. The stage? Very, very simple, with just the musicians’ instruments (including one smaller drum set which was played by the fabulous keyboard player, Gary Husband) and no fancy lighting à-la-Kiss. Dominique Di Piazza was on bass for the band. According to Wikipedia, McLaughlin is: “.. regarded by many as one of the most influential and technically gifted guitarists of all time, having mastered a remarkable range of styles and genres, including jazz, Indian classical music, and fusion. He has also incorporated aspects of Flamenco music in some of his acoustic periods”.

McLaughlin played some tunes from his new album, “Floating Point” as well as some old material. Personally, at some point in the concert, I felt as though I was almost listening to Pat Metheny (whom I’ve seen only three times so far) in McLaughlin’s music, indeed a worthy “heir” of the great John. It was Mclaughlin’s third visit to Udine and even though the crowd was rather small (made up mostly of folks in their 50s but with also the odd “youngin’” here and there), his performance was no doubt greatly appreciated by the audience at hand. One of his tunes was also “Light At The Edge” by the great old sax player Pharoah Sanders (whom I also saw years ago in Rome).

On an odd note, as we arrived at the theatre at about 8.40 pm, there was John and his band also arriving. I looked at him and said, “But aren’t you ALREADY supposed to be inside”? At which point he looked at me and said, “Yes, I’m going now” (pic by M. Rimati)!

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