John McLaughlin: Mattinale
John McLaughlin and The Free Spirits
Tokyo Live (Verve 314 521 870-2)
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Tokyo, Japan, December 1993
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
In the late '60s, McLaughlin was an integral part of a very non-traditional jazz organ trio as a member of the trailblazing Tony Williams Lifetime. In 1993, he decided to take another bite of the apple. He brought in organ phenom Joey DeFrancesco and powerhouse drummer Dennis Chambers to join him in creating The Free Spirits. These three guys had chops to spare. The trio may have been traditional in the sense of instrumentation, but it was anything but that in action. Playing John McLaughlin compositions will do that to any band.
An introspective guitar solo opens "Mattinale." Understated yet profound, McLaughlin sweeps back and forth exposing a gentle nerve until Chambers and DeFrancesco kick in to pick up the pace and the piece becomes a lilting Spanish blues. Just as quickly, Chambers double-times it and McLaughlin and DeFrancesco are off and running to the thrilled cheers of the assembled crowd. Their speed-burning solo turns lead to a shuffle section. The accompaniment from both players is of the highest level. Over a Spanish chord progression, DeFrancesco does his best Miles Davis impression on trumpet before Dennis Chambers brings things to a close with his drum artistry. "Mattinale" is a vehicle that takes many side trips. Eventually, though, it gets you where you need to be.
Three points are taken off the rating because McLaughlin's guitar tone too closely mimicked DeFrancesco's organ.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky