John McLaughlin Still Mounts a Serious Flame on "Now Here This"
Posted by Michael Mueller on October 24, 2012 at 2:22 PM
He may be 70 years old, and it may be his 24th solo album, but on his latest release, Now Here This, guitarist John McLaughlin plays with all the fire, veracity, and adventure of, well, the John McLaughlin of 40 years ago. The cleverly Zen-titled disc comprises eight new McLaughlin compositions executed to the highest standard by his band The 4th Dimension, which features Gary Husband (keyboards), Etienne M'Bappe (bass), and newcomer Ranjit Barot (drums).
Leadoff track "Trancefusion" proves the perfect ear-catching showcase for McLaughlin's still-formidable chops, slicing through pentatonic 4ths lines, arpeggios, and bop-flavored phrasing all in his trademark overdrive. Also does it serve as an eye-opening introduction to Barot, whose labyrinthine polyrhythms are not only mesmerizing but prove a thrilling match for McLaughlin's intensity.
"Riff Raff" and "Call and Answer" bring similar fire and energy, both tracks also highlighting the funkier and aggressive side of M'Bappe's crisp bass style. That he can attack his fingerboard so ferociously one moment and then coerce a soothing fretless purr on the ballad "Wonderfall" the next speaks volumes to his mastery. The latter also showcases Husband's delectable phrasing, shifting seamlessly from fiery scalar lines to angular intervallic puzzles and back again.
Given the fusion inferno that engulfs Now Here This, "Not Here Not There," is a surprisingly "smooth jazz" entry and a track that could easily be mistaken for Neal Schon "jazz" instrumental.
That perplexity aside, Now Here This is an album that clearly shows why McLaughlin is widely lauded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time—and not just by journalists and fans but also by his peers.