Happy Birthday John McLaughlin

January 4, 1942

A tribute to the innovative guitarist

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Guitarist and leader John McLaughlin was born January 4, 1942 in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England.

McLaughlin studied violin and piano before switching to guitar when he was 11.

Always interested in many different styles, McLaughlin gained his early experience playing in England with Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, Graham Bond and Brian Auger, performing swing, modern jazz, r&b, pop and rock music.

In 1969 McLaughlin led his first album (Extrapolation), moved to the U.S., became a member of Tony Williams’ Lifetime and recorded on Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way; he would also appear on such other Davis early fusion albums as Bitches Brew, Live-Evil, On The Corner and A Tribute To Jack Johnson.

John McLaughlin had a very original sound and style by then, the first major breakthrough in jazz guitar since Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt; his rockish sound, virtuosic technique and very original ideas made him in great demand for record dates.

McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, a powerful rock/jazz fusion group, only recorded three albums in the 1971-73 but had a major influence on music.

The guitarist quickly followed with his Indian acoustic group Shakti and then spent the next 40 years shifting between electric and acoustic guitar on a variety of projects and collaborations including guitar trios with Larry Coryell and Paco DeLucia, the One Truth Band, the film Round Midnight with Dexter Gordon, a trio with organist Joey DeFrancesco, a Bill Evans tribute album, the 4th Dimension, the Five Peace Band with Chick Corea, and a 2017 tour with Jimmy Herring before announcing his retirement.

Considered both a jazz and a rock guitarist, John McLaughlin is a giant on his instrument

Here is a rare and unusual performance that features McLaughlin sitting in with the Tonight Show Band (led by trumpeter Doc Severinsen) in 1985 playing a very effective version of “Cherokee.”

-Scott Yanow


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