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A household name since the early 1970s, John McLaughlin was already an innovative fusion guitarist when he led the Mahavishnu Orchestra and continued living up to his reputation as a phenomenal and consistently inquisitive player through the years.

McLaughlin began studying guitar when he was 11 and was initially inspired by blues and swing players. He worked with Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, and others in the 1960s and played free jazz with Gunter Hampel for six months. His first album was a classic (1969's Extrapolation) and was followed by an obscurity for the Dawns label with John Surman and a quintet set with Larry Young (Devotion). My Goals Beyond in 1970 was an album filled with acoustic solos and jams involving Indian musicians.


In 1969, McLaughlin moved to New York to play with Tony Williams' Lifetime and appeared on two classic Miles Davis records: In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. In 1971, he formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a very powerful group often catalogued as rock but also showcasing the sophisticated improvisations of jazz. After three influential albums (The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, and Between Nothingness and Eternity), the group disbanded in 1973. McLaughlin, who, with Carlos Santana, recorded a powerful spiritual album influenced by John Coltrane, put together a new Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1974 that, despite the inclusion of Jean-Luc Ponty, failed to catch on and parted ways by 1975.

McLaughlin then surprised the music world by radically shifting directions, switching to acoustic guitar and playing Indian music with his group Shakti. They made a strong impact on the world music scene (which was in its infancy) during their three years. McLaughlin then went back and forth between electric and acoustic guitars: leading the One Truth Band; playing in trios with Al DiMeola and Paco De Lucia; popping up on some mid-'80s Miles Davis records; forming a short-lived third version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra (with saxophonist Bill Evans); recording an introspective tribute to pianist Bill Evans; and, in 1993, touring with a rollicking jazz trio featuring Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers. Throughout his productive career, John McLaughlin has recorded as a leader for Marmalade, Dawns, Douglas International, Columbia, Warner Brothers, and Verve. (Scott Yanow)

Visit www.johnmclaughlin.com


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