John McLaughlin: Aspan




John McLaughlin (guitar)


Music Spoken Here (WEA 0630-17157-2)

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John McLaughlin (guitar), Katia Labeque (keyboards),

Francois Couturier (Fender Rhodes), Jean-Paul Celea (bass), Tommy Campbell (drums)


Composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: Paris, France, June 1982


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

"Aspan" is a joy. The character of the piece is largely European with a prejudice toward Spain. Spanish-sounding chord progressions dominate the backing as McLaughlin and keyboardist Katia Labèque engage in some furious calls and responses. The spontaneity of the music belies the fact that Labèque's notes were written out for her.

There are times that Labèque's synthesizer sounds can come off as a bit dated. But her lines are always engaging. When she and McLaughlin play rapid-fire unison notes her tone melds in perfectly. McLaughlin does some killing playing. A bit of the Gypsy in him breaks out from time to time as he jumps into a hyperactive Django jag. Also of interest is drummer Tommy Campbell's reverberating pounding. This band took a bad rap from some corners as not being up to McLaughlin's previous standards. It is true that there was no one in this band who was going to "challenge" McLaughlin. But they were the right players for McLaughlin to get his point across about how wonderful an acoustic guitar could sound playing fusion music in this half-acoustic/half-electric configuration.

I don't know where the title of the tune comes from. But I can quite easily see a bullfight in its melodies and rhythms. Labèque is actually the bullfighter. McLaughlin is the unpredictable bull.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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