John McLaughlin: Acid Jazz


Acid Jazz


John McLaughlin and The Heart of Things


Live in Paris (Verve 543 536-2)

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John McLaughlin (electric guitar), Dennis Chambers (drums),

Gary Thomas (sax), Otmaro Ruiz (keyboards), Matthew Garrison (bass)


Composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: Paris, November 1998


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Ironically, I don't know if this tune really qualifies as "acid jazz." From what I understand, acid jazz is sort of a soul-funk retro music that may feature some ambient electronics and even a DJ's vocals. We certainly have the ambient electronics. And Matthew Garrison does babble into some sort of sound processor. But does this "Acid Jazz" have soul and funk? I don't think so. That would make two out of four. Ah well, close enough for government work, as they say. (Which government, they don't say.)

What we do have is a multi-part long-form jam based upon the "Acid Jazz" melody introduced on the previous Heart of Things album. This live version is miles beyond that drier studio effort. Two minutes of open exploration usher in the main theme. Chambers's constant beat supports until another long exposition from saxophonist Thomas is played out. The tension builds as the band returns en masse to the head. Then all those ambient noises and weird voices enter. McLaughlin quotes Coltrane. The spring is coiling tighter and tighter. We know this is all prelude. All hell finally breaks loose as McLaughlin and Chambers go ballistic. McLaughlin's many drumming foils have included Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Michael Walden, Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain. But his telepathy with Chambers for the last 15 years or so does not come in second to any of those other greats. McLaughlin's distorted ring-modulated rave-up and Chambers's missile lobbing threaten to wreck the place. A false ending or two is thrown in to discombobulate. Acid jazz? Maybe not. But whatever they call it, I'll take it.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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