Album Reviews

Santana & McLaughlin

Invitation To Illumination: Live at Montreux 2011

Artist:     Santana & McLaughlin

Album:     Invitation To Illumination

Label:     Eagle Rock

Release Date:     09/11/2015


Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin. Their names together connote the Everest of jazz fusion guitar. This concert at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival was their first long-form collaboration since the release of their John Coltrane-inspired album, Love Devotion Surrender, and subsequent tour, in 1973. At that time, Santana fans largely dismissed the music as just too much to handle, while fans of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra ate it for breakfast. In the nearly four decades since, both guitarists have expanded their palette in line with their consistently mounting talents.

From aggressive to gentle, the music here is simply sublime. They perform the lion’s share of the ’73 studio album, backed by a superb nine-piece band, and weave compositions by Tony Williams, Miles Davis, Sonny Sharrock and even John Lee Hooker into the mix. There are no Santana hits, as it should be. Highlights include an acoustic interlude featuring the two guitarists navigating nimbly and beautifully through Coltrane’s “Naima” and the Spanish-flavored “Lotus Land Op. 47 No. 1” by Cyril Scott. Their eclectic, highly electric medley based upon Santana’s “Peace on Earth” and incorporating Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” also stands out, as does Pharoah Sanders’ hard-rolling “Venus.” Highly recommended to those with wide-open ears, and the time to fully absorb and appreciate. Viva Santana and McLaughlin!

—Tom Clarke

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