Artist: John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension
Album: Black Light
Label: Abstract Logix
Release Date: 09/21/2015
Guitar legend John McLaughlin has never made a sad album. Even when paying tribute to departed musical contemporaries, he makes sure his sounds convey the utmost jubilance. Here, McLaughlin unites with his virtuosic brethren in the 4th Dimension to unleash the perfect companion piece to 2012’s Now Here This. One half musical eulogies, one half peppy jam, Black Light may be dichotomous, but still proves a unique release in the catalogue of one of jazz’s most superb creators.
The album’s opener, “Here Comes the Jiis” pays respectful homage to his prior group devoted to Indian music and soundscapes, Shakti. Though the tribute is specifically for late member “Mandolin” Shrinivas, the track features a strong build-up for 23 seconds until McLaughlin’s guitar comes roaring in and intertwines with drummer Ranjit Barot’s Tony Williams-inspired percussive bashing.
While 4th Dimension members Gary Husband (keyboards/drums), Etienne Mbappe (bass) and Barot never stop the intensity, they make sure to tone things down where applicable. “Being You Being Me” is softer as more of a blues wail comes out of McLaughlin’s guitar. Like its title, “Gaza City” is somber given that it reflects the strife gripping the titular region.
Throughout the album, as on Now Here This, you get the image of McLaughlin with his head bobbing, a smile on his face as his fingers work their magic. “El Hombre Que Sabia” is a tribute to flamenco giant Paco de Lucia, featuring fast-flying fingers across an acoustic guitar. It’s also the softest track on the album and sounds like McLaughlin is trying to conjure up beautiful Friday Night in San Francisco vibes of yore. “Clap Your Hand” and “Panditji” feature infectious scat singing on the part of Barot, who adds groove-laden percussion all the while. His sticks fly on and around the drums.
As a whole, Black Light brings more meat to McLaughlin’s repertoire. It’s great knowing his Mahavishnu Orchestra leanings will never fully disappear.