John McLaughlin: Belo Horizonte
John McLaughlin Trio
Que Alegria (Verve 837 280-2)
John McLaughlin (guitar),
Dominique Di Piazza (bass), Trilok Gurtu (percussion).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany, November 1991
Rating: 99/100 (learn more)
"Belo Horizonte" is a composition that goes back to McLaughlin's 1982 album Belo Horizonte. At that time it was played with the Translators, a quintet McLaughlin had put together comprised of three European jazz players and a classical pianist who doubled on organ/synthesizer. It was a fine European-sounding band that played this composition beautifully. In the hands of this trio, however, the same tune was quite different.
Trilok Gurtu is a master Indian percussionist who was quite familiar with the Western musical idiom. This made him the perfect drummer for John McLaughlin. Gurtu supplied much of this trio's identity. He would pound away on a trap kit and constantly add sound shadings through the use of a boatload of percussive tools including nothing less than pots of water and rubber duckies. Gurtu's playful personality brought a new level of fun to McLaughlin's music. In concert, Gurtu and McLaughlin would often provide moments of comic relief with their efforts to throw each other off the rhythm. The laughter back and forth was contagious.
In this version, "Belo Horizonte" retained much more of its Brazilian inspiration. McLaughlin's pensive arpeggios introduce the delicate theme played at rapid pace by him and the bassist. Gurtu adds the rainforest. McLaughlin's fleet-fingered solo, interspersed with quick-strummed chords, features some of the finest improvised playing of his career. Di Piazza, a wondrous bassist, plays counterpoint and call and response before soloing. What a player! The next Jaco! The uplifting theme returns as this joyful jungle trek comes to an end.
Alas, Dominique Di Piazza would not become the next Jaco. Shortly after this recording, he gave up music and spent several years in a monastery! In the last few years, he has reappeared on the scene. His amazing playing is still something to be admired. But his career momentum is now gone. That is, if a jazz bassist these days can have career momentum.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky