[f_minor] John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Glenn Gould's extra hands and fingers

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 12 23:16:28 MDT 2014

Yeah, when Miles Davis picks a skinny young white boy from England (thanks Henry Corra!) to play guitar in his band (on Bitches Brew and other albums), this is a strong hint that the boy is a talented guitarist.

Jazz in our lifetimes has had a sad tendency to become Smithsonionized, lifeless, looking backwards rather than (as its first revoluionary instincts were) exploring the future of musical forms and styles. Probably one of the things that matched Davis and McLaughlin were that they were both explorers and experimenters -- they understood that jazz needed to explore and keep inventing, or it would sputter and wheeze and die -- in tuxedos and funereal attire.

Mahavishnu John's spiritual quest sprang technically from his need to master the rest of the world's stringed instruments. Like (Harrison mainly) the Beatles, Indian stringed instruments and musical forms clearly needed to be injected into serious Western music -- the way African elements had created jazz 60+ years earlier.  I'm convinced McLaughlin never cared if his experiments (fusion, symphonic pieces like "Apocalypse" with Tilson-Thomas and Jean Luc-Ponty) did not please music consumers (like Pat, who is wildly passionate and forward-thinking about music). I think McLaughlin just needs to keep exploring, experimenting. The Labeque duo piano compositions were a beautiful new direction, this time influenced by the south of France and the Mediterranean. I know I'll be eager to hear where he aims his experiments next.

As for GG's studio ability to grow extra hands or GATACA fingers ...

No one loves GG's keyboard albums more than I. But his flight from the concert stage and refuge in the electronic magic laboratory of the studio robbed his ultimate contribution of spontaneity. His obsessive pursuit of perfection (however achieved) robbed him of the courage to make a mistake in a concert hall filled with (music-loving) strangers. I said in an f_minor post once that the pursuit of perfection taints the music with an audible sterility.

Oh ... okay ... well, Pat can blame his own Switzerland on this, but yeah, the Mahavishnu music did go great with lysergic acid dyethylamide. The history of jazz, blues, rock and norty substances is ancient and so ubiquitous that you could write a master's dissertation on what 20th century popular music would have been like without chemical substances. (There exists a remarkable tape of young John McClaughlin jamming all night with Jimi Hendrix.)

Sorry I've been a bit slow to respond to this thread, i'm getting cataracts removed and my typing and computer skills have been a bit compromised. But very soon

    I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
    I can see all obstacles in my way
    Gone are the dark clouds that have made me blind
    It's gonna be a bright sunshiney day!

        -- Johnny Nash

Massachusetts USA

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