John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension — To the One
(Abstract Logix ABLX 027, 2010, CD)
Has there ever been such a strong John McLaughlin studio album? This slightly revised quartet has come off some high mountaintops (specifically the guitarist’s last two albums, Industrial Zen and Floating Point), and this record benefits greatly from the strong chemistry between keyboardist Gary Husband and McLaughlin on the front line. Main drummer Mark Mondesir is clearly in a effortless class all his own with his wonderful snare; Husband himself even gets in a few licks on drums, too (where it's a real percussion duet and not just a drum-off). Having seen this lineup at the end of their fall 2010 tour gives an appreciation for this top-notch chemistry. New member (and ex-Joe Zawinul bass guitarist) Etienne M'Bappe is a perfect fit for the ensemble, holding down the blistering groove and giving root to each of the songs. McLaughlin himself even shows a little Jeff Beck influence nowadays, and his new approach is welcome and effortlessness. He has clearly shaken off the Mahavishnu reins and injected his new music with a modern flair that doesn't lean heavily on his legacy. Husband also pushes the harmonic envelope with some fine keyboard improvisations, much in the tradition of the long legacy of classic McLaughlin keyboardists. We can hear the voices that these fellows have left behind.
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