LIVE: John McLaughlin / Jimmy Herring @ The Egg, 11/2/17
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The legendary jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin has chosen to hang up his touring boots after a stellar career. One of the most influential players of all time, his body of work is testament to a musician who has never stopped exploring & innovating. Just the list of greats he played with before striking out on his own – Miles Davis, Graham Bond, Tony Williams – would ensure his place in any history of the music that we call jazz.
But in the ’70s he then went on to pretty much define and refine the fusion of jazz & rock with the original Mahavishnu Orchestra and also bring world music to the fore with Shakti – his collaboration with Indian classical musicians. Add in the many solo albums he has recorded, covering a bewildering array of other genres, and you have a true renaissance man.
So McLaughlin’s farewell tour of the U.S. is called The Meeting of the Spirits, and for the second date of the tour, it landed at The Egg’s Hart Theatre last Thursday night.
The name of the tour doesn’t just refer to the Mahavishnu song of the same title. This truly is a meeting of musical spirits, as the co-headliner is fellow guitarist Jimmy Herring, a well-regarded soldier in the jam band scene, having served in the trenches with Aquarium Rescue Unit, Phil Lesh, the Other Ones and currently, Widespread Panic.
Herring and his excellent band the Invisible Whip (Jeff Sipe – drums, Matt Slocum – keyboards, Kevin Scott – bass, Jason Crosby – keyboards/violin) opened the evening with a sprightly set of jazz-funk workouts. The jam-and-jazz savvy sold-out crowd greeted their version of the Allman Brothers tune “Les Brers in A Minor,” along with their original compositions, with warm applause.
After a short intermission McLaughlin took the stage with his band 4th Dimension ( Gary Husband – keys/drums, Etienne Mbappe – bass, Ranjit Barot – drums/voice). The set featured more recent pieces from McLaughlin’s solo work, such as “El Hombre Que Sabia,” a tribute to the late guitarist Paco De Lucia, John’s close friend and regular touring companion. Of particular note in a high intensity performance was a drum duet by Husband and Barot that, unlike so many drum solos, did not overstay its welcome.
But if it’s intensity you were looking for, the third set provided it and how! Herring and his band came back on stage to join 4th Dimension, and together the nine musicians tore through a thrilling hour of Mahavishnu material, including classics like the witheringly heavy “Birds of Fire,” the haunted blues of “Miles Beyond,” the “meet you at the end” breakneck chase of “Meeting of the Spirits” and the spiritual majesty of “Eternity’s Breath.” This was what the crowd had come to see, a last chance to witness live a consummate composer share his music of joy and power.
Frankie Cavone’s review & photographs at NYS Music