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The 4th Dimension, Miles Davis, and Kingfisher Beer: In Conversation with John McLaughlin

Neha posted on 02 November

John McLaughlin's new outfit, The 4th Dimension, boasts a stellar lineup of musicians: Ranjit Barot, Gary Husband, and Etienne Mbappe are all accomplished in their own right. Hot on the release of their latest album Black Light, they're performing in town. Expect tracks that range from the '70s to their more recent work. McLaughlin tells us more before the gig.

The 4th Dimension is sometimes reminiscent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Is this a comparison you are often asked to make?  

The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, the Three Guitars and everything else that I've done has shaped The 4th Dimension. When you hear the band if you listen closely you will hear all of those bands inside the music. In a way, all those bands helped me create The 4th Dimension, along with the great talents and wonderful life experiences of Ranjit, Gary and Etienne.

Black Light, your new album, has several homages to musicians Ravi Shankar, Paco de Lucia, and U. Shrinivas. Could you tell us a bit more about the tracks?

These pieces are tributes to the men you cite, and to the love and affection I have for them even though they have disappeared. Paco and I had decided in 2013 to record a duo album in 2014, and we'd begun exchanging music for the project. In fact he received the sketch of 'El Hombre que Sabià' just days before he left for Mexico, and was very fond of it. The piece 'PanditJi' is for the great Pandit Ji Ravi Shankar with whom I studied in the 1970s, and the piece 'Here come the Jiis' is for Mandolin U. Shrinivas. Clearly the piece 'PanditJi' took much more time to come than the others, since I wrote those pieces shortly after learning that they had died. The passing of U. Shrinivas was also very painful after 14 years of very close association. Actually I have to wait for music to come to me, I cannot just sit down and write music, it doesn't work like that for me. When the music does come, it has a feeling to it in addition to which form it wants to adopt.

How you approach jazz as a form today?

This is a strictly personal appreciation particularly in view of the appearance of 'smooth jazz' or 'funky jazz', which I cannot in all honesty consider to be jazz at all. This is music to talk over in a cafe or bistro. Jazz is a music to be experienced, not chatted over. My approach to jazz is as it was when I discovered the Miles Davis 'school'. It is a school of passion, of dynamics and virtuosity. It is not against 'funk' or 'rock', these elements are clearly a part of my own music, but it's more in the manner the music is played. It's almost as though the listener shouldn't be too disturbed by the music, and the music ends up being shallow and full of clichés. This is just silly.

What are your views on the current musical moment? 

Musically it's wonderful. The level of the young musicians today is so high. What troubles me is the lamentable situation with the record industry: actually, there is no more record industry, it's gone and has been replaced with streaming. The biggest loser in this is the instrumentalist musician. No one can get a contract from a record company anymore. I'm afraid it will get worse before it gets better.

Besides the music, what else do you look forward to doing when you're here?

To go to a good restaurant with the band and friends, have some great Indian food and a Kingfisher beer!

Where: VR Bengaluru, Whitefield, Mahadevpura

When: November 7-8, 7 pm onwards

Find tickets to the event here.

Find the event on Facebook here.

Featured image via: Ross Halfin

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VR Bengaluru

Location Details

40/9, Devasandra Industrial Estate, ITPL Road, Krishnarajapura, Bengaluru