John McLaughlin: Blues for L.W.


Blues for L.W.


John McLaughlin (guitar)


Music Spoken Here (WEA 0630-17157-2)

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John McLaughlin (guitar),

Katia LaBeque (keyboards), Francois Couturier (Fender Rhodes), Jean-Paul Celea (bass), Tommy Campbell (drums)


Composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: Paris, June 1982


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

"L.W." stands for Lech Wa??sa, the former Polish union leader who led a worker's revolt against Poland's ruling communist party in the early '80s. John McLaughlin, the person, has over the years made clear in interviews and song titles like "Wall Will Fall" and "The Unknown Dissident" his disdain for totalitarian governments. These views combined with the fact that former communist satellite countries were deprived of hearing or seeing jazz performers for the longest time are the main reason McLaughlin attracts his largest crowds not in Western Europe or the U.S., but in post-communist Eastern Europe. (Then again, his crowds are even larger in India. That is for an entirely different reason.)

The Translators, McLaughlin's mostly acoustic European jazz outfit of the early '80s, was a fine band even if most of its function was to back McLaughlin on his solo flights. "Blues for L.W." opens with a sad hope. McLaughlin's acoustic playing puts light on shadows. The tune becomes a swinging blues shuffle. This blues is not of the rough variety, but is the clean European version that substitutes grace for soul. LaBeque's synth sounds a bit dated the fate of advancing technology and taste. But it is quickly dispensed with for more of McLaughlin's empathetic picking. At song's end, the sadness returns as a bell tolls its hope for the future.

A more aggressive and uplifting "Blues for L.W." appeared on McLaughlin's 1989 album Live at the Royal Festival Hall. Since Wa??sa had by then become president of Poland, I can only assume that McLaughlin was celebrating the fact.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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