John McLaughlin: Zamfir
John McLaughlin (acoustic guitar)
Belo Horizonte (Warner Bros. 2292 57001-2)
Francois Jeanneau (sax), Francois Couturier (keyboards), Jean Paul Celea (bass), Tommy Campbell (drums), Jean Pierre Drouet, Steve Sheman (percussion).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Paris, France, June 1981
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
This band, casually known as The Translators, is perhaps the most unsung of John McLaughlin's groups. After he switched record labels from Columbia to Warner Bros. in 1980, Belo Horizonte was his first release. The attendant advertising campaign implied that, despite McLaughlin playing acoustic guitar, the band was more electric than it really was. Of course that did not affect the musical quality, but I wonder how effective the campaign was, since this beautiful album failed to register on any scale or chart I was aware of. It seemed to appear and disappear overnight. Time has passed, and its brilliance is now acknowledged by many McLaughlin fans and guitar aficionados.
A sophisticated European jazz elegance permeates this album. The understated lush ballad "Zamfir" exemplifies that elegance. A short lyrical introduction is presented. McLaughlin and keyboardist Francois Couturier provide the gentle backdrop for the lovely bass of Jean Paul Celea. It is masterful playing of a touching theme. A slow, almost samba-like jazz swing takes over, mostly courtesy of drummer Tommy Campbell. McLaughlin now solos in the center channel. The melody is based on a few simple notes that he exploits to their limits. What a beautiful harmonious sound. At the time, McLaughlin gave several interviews about his new direction. He said he wanted to show the beauty of the acoustic guitar. In his long career, McLaughlin has put out many great acoustic-guitar albums. Musically, some are better than and some not as good as Belo Horizonte. But for the pure beauty of what an acoustic guitar can sound like, nothing matches this album. "Zamfir" is further proof that the best sounds on this earth are the most natural.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky