John McLaughlin

The Montreux Years
John McLaughlin
Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin in 1987.

This retrospective from the Swiss jazz festival spans 28 years, covering miles of jazz-rock territory. In 1984, McLaughlin formed a new Mahavishnu lineup, heard in “Radio Activity.” McLaughlin’s solo opens with a hammer-on lick that’s part Van Halen, part McCoy Tyner – before delivering a terrifying demonstration of picking dexterity.

“Friendship,” a 1978 recording with his short-lived One Truth Band, found McLaughlin wailing on a black ES-345, while he shreds on 1998’s “Acid Jazz” with a red Gibson Johnny Smith archtop with Bigsby. On “David” and “Florianapolis,” John’s fleet-fingered acoustic is heard in a duet with flamenco icon Paco de Lucía. Their combined virtuosity is undeniable.

Two years after de Lucía’s sudden death, McLaughlin paid homage with “El Hombre Que Sabià” (translation: the man who knew). Gigging with his band, The 4th Dimension, McLaughlin trades melody lines with keyboard genius Gary Husband, each telepathically dancing around the other. “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” finds him jamming with two legends – organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers – offering soulful results.

Even better than all this great fusion, the 80-year-old McLaughlin is still touring Europe to this day. To your good health, sir.

This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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