John McLaughlin: Jazz Jungle
John McLaughlin (guitar)
The Promise (Verve 314 529 828-2)
Jim Beard (keyboards), James Genus (bass), Don Alias (percussion).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: New York, 1995
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
For quite some time before the release of The Promise, many John McLaughlin fans had been secretly wishing that he would really let loose on a hard-rocking fusion number again. He had put out some fantastic music in the last decade, but most of it was acoustic. When he did return to the electric guitar, he opted for a warmer tone by using a hollow-body Johnny Smith guitar. In addition, his new format was The Free Spirits, a band that focused on the sound of the classic organ trio. His playing was still quite pleasing, but the sense of attack was gone. While the guitar tone on this cut also tends to be warm, McLaughlin employs more distortion and at times plays through a ring modulator. His sound comes out more forcefully and is easier to hear.
"Jazz Jungle" is a killer number. The head is a meandering riff that seems to have about a million notes, once it becomes twisted over and over again in the course of the jam. Michael Brecker is a great foil. He mimics the head and provides real challenges during a furious call-and-response section. McLaughlin forges a powerful connection with drummer Chambers, who with percussionist Alias sometimes nears rhythm-speed that approaches the sound barrier. There is so much going on, there is too much to explain. It is indeed a jazz jungle, where distorted funk and long frenzied fusion lines make it the tune that diehards had wished for. Ironically, the very next tune on the album was "The Wish."
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky