Guitarist, composer and visionary John McLaughlin, easily a jazz master under anyone’s definition, has created another wonder recording in his ever expanding catalog. His early work under Miles Davis, as well as his own incredibly influential and groundbreaking fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra, would have been enough for most artists to find immortality. McLaughlin, however, kept searching and seeking for other musical relevancies. Later work included the world-influenced before world-influenced was a universal concept Shakti, as well as work with Al DiMeola and Paco DeLucia. Since then McLaughlin has worked in a number of different venues with varying degrees of success. His new recording, however, is a total bull’s-eye.
Whether it’s his hot new band of young backing musicians or his looking for musical connection within the topsy-turvy world of early 21st century jazz label fallacy, on To The One McLaughlin has hit gold. Through the six tracks, McLaughlin has not only created some of the best compositions of his life, but has assembled a fusion band that lets it rip from the first note to the last. It’s wrong to say this band takes no prisoners on each of the cuts because the power of his ideas and the nuclear bombs he and his band drops totally obliterate the landscape. The end result will be a long list of A-talent jazz musicians who will again bow down to McLaughlin’s longtime held position as elder statesman, realizing just how far they still have to go to catch up to this legendary axe man.
From the opening riff melody of "Discovery" to the ending of "To The One," McLaughlin and company tear it up. McLaughlin’s solos throughout are more about spur of the moment energy, excitement and power than they are about any forethought or prearranged rendition of some philosophy. What you get is stream of consciousness playing that is so desperately lacking in the jazz world today.
The band is powered by the incredible chops of drummers Gary Husband and Mark Mondesir. Together they both impel and propel the compositions forward in a manner reminiscent of Dave Weckl’s work. On "Discovery," Mondesir is very much in groove yet still kicking the daylights out of every little accent. On the subtle mid-tempo "To The One," Husband has a manner with his cymbals that pushes and prods McLaughlin’s guitar-synth solo to ever increasing heights of transcendent and technically brilliant beauty.
Bass guitarist Etienne M’Bappe is a solid foundation and drummer Mark Mondesir is an able percussionist when Husband moves to the keys. The real star, however, is McLaughlin and his daring flights of fancy. Along with the incredibly tight interworkings of the band he’s put together, this one is a keeper and a stellar statement by a genuine jazz giant.