John McLaughlin: Hijacked
John McLaughlin (guitar, Photon MIDI-interface)
Que Alegria (Verve 837 280-2)
Dominique Di Piazza (bass).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany, November 1991
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
Fans started rediscovering John McLaughlin in the early 1990s. The '80s had not been so good for the icon. He had a couple of bad record deals, and his experimenting with guitar synthesizers had left some listeners cold. Even his good music wasn't being heard by many.
Que Alegria was released about the same time that Branford Marsalis was having his Tonight Show band play McLaughlin's Mahavishnu music on the show, which provided a small but needed boost. The fact that Que Alegria was brilliant also helped. McLaughlin was now exclusively playing acoustic guitar. But he still wanted to play synthesizer. So he made a wonderful compromise. He had a MIDI-controller added to his acoustic guitar. This allowed him to play both. This time out, however, he used the synthesizer much more wisely. He could make his guitar sound like an organ and other things, but for the most part he used the synthesizer to provide backing chords and shading for his beautiful acoustic guitar. This formula worked to perfection. But John McLaughlin cannot be pigeonholed no matter how hard one may try. There is hardly any acoustic guitar sound heard on this tune.
"Hijacked" begins as a collection of fluttering synthesized notes and a riding cymbal. McLaughlin sounds like an electric keyboard as Di Piazza plays a circular bass riff. Lots of fun stops and starts and unison playing ensue. This is difficult but light music at the same time. The tune's midsection is a collection of disjointed offerings that somehow all meet in the middle. Di Piazza's solo is especially pleasing. Then the tune is hijacked. It becomes a full-out swing number with walking bass and all. This is head-bopping and toe-tapping music that confounds those who say McLaughlin doesn't swing.
McLaughlin would cover the song again with his Free Spirits group of drummer Dennis Chambers and organist Joey DeFrancesco on 1994's Tokyo Live. He also reprised the tune on his 2007 tour with his latest group, the 4th Dimension.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky