By Herb Boyd | Published June 2022
Fusion, funk and flamenco flow abundantly from John McLaughlin’s The Montreux Years, an album of tracks that span from 1984 to 2016 highlighted by dates in 1987 with the late guitarist Paco de Lucia. McLaughlin’s sonic vibrations combine with de Lucia’s swift fingering, creating picturesque smears of sound that at the conclusion of “David” elicit a thunderous response from the crowd, giving the live performance an extended eruption. The duo replicates this fury on “Florianapolis,” and later McLaughlin pays tribute to his departed companion on “El Hombre Que Sabia” (The Man Who Knew).
When McLaughlin is not with de Lucia, he finds comparable mates in Dennis Chambers, Joey DeFrancesco, Gary Thomas and Victor Williams, among others. On “Radio Activity,” there is an exemplary sample of fusion and funk, and McLaughlin delivers a searing sermonette, mixing an array of keening high notes with guttural dips that bear all the hallmarks of a down-home Baptist preacher. His guitar sings and swoops in keeping with a gospel convocation.
The Montreux Years is a return to a bountiful time when McLaughlin set the pace and even abetted the ever curious and inventive Miles Davis to curate a fresh breakthrough. When he first met Davis, who asked him to join him on a date, McLaughlin confessed that he was nervous playing with his idol. “Just relax and play like you’ve been doing, and everything will be all right,” Davis assured him.
The Montreux Years: Radio Activity; Nostalgia; Acid Jazz; David; Sing Me Softly Of the Blues; Florianapolis; El Hombre Que Sabia. (72:36)
Personnel: John McLaughlin guitar (1–7); Bill Evans, saxophones (1, 2); Danny Gottlieb, drums (1, 2); Mitchel Forman, keyboards (1, 2); Jonas Hellborg, bass (1, 2); Otmaro Ruiz, keyboards (3); Dennis Chambers, drums (3, 5); Victor Williams, percussion (3); Gary Thomas, saxophone, flute (3); Matthew Garrison, bass (3); Paco de Lucia, guitar (4, 6); Joey DeFrancesco, organ, trumpet (5); Gary Husband, keyboards (7); Etienne M’Bappe, bass (7); Ranjit Barot, drums (7).
Ordering Info: bmg.com