John McLaughlin - To the power of zen

John McLaughlin draws on the energy of the music he created with the Mahavishnu Orchestra to weld it on to everything that has gone since for his eagerly awaited “zen” project. With its hard driving, abrasive edge at times, it is hardly a fluffy product of some dreamy new age.

While there are respectful nods to esteemed colleagues such as Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, the spiritual strength of the Dali Lama informs McLaughlin’s concept as the guitarist hits new improvisational peaks and challenges the growth of conservatism in jazz. Exclusive interview: Stuart Nicholson

John McLaughlin - To the power of zen
There’s no doubt about it. On his latest album Industrial Zen, John McLaughlin is getting something out of his system. One of the greatest guitar players on this planet is angry. He says: “This conservatism in jazz is just a pain in the neck, especially in America where a guy can write in The New York Times, ‘Thank God this pestilence known as fusion is dead’!” Industrial Zen is his answer that jazz-rock fusion is far from dead and still remains a potent force in jazz. “I hope it disturbs critics like the one in The New York Times who wrote this nonsense. Actually it’s not my intention to shock the critics, I just want to play good music. This is the whole part of my life, the whole part of my being.”

The intensity of his feelings boils over into Industrial Zen which captures some of the most exciting, dynamic and brilliantly executed guitar playing since, well, his Mahavishnu Orchestra days in the early 1970s. “It’s great to be doing that again!” he laughs.

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