"I'm not dead yet!" Guitar legend John McLaughlin talks to SJF about life, death, retirement and his brilliant new album, 'Black Light.'

Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:14 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


JOHN McLAUGHLIN - without doubt the doyen of jazz-rock guitarists, now 73 - is in a deeply philosophical mood. "I don't have ambitions like I used to when I was a young man," he reveals. "The older I get the more aware of my mortality I become, especially when you hit the biblical age of seventy. Every day over that is a present, a gift, and every concert that I do might be the last one I ever do. I think I might as well give 100% just in case. Know what I mean?" He follows his rhetorical question with a laugh that suggests that he appreciates the bittersweet ironies in life. It's the carefree chuckle of a man who is seemingly in the twilight of his career but who seems benignly at peace with himself and his past.

Born in Yorkshire, McLaughlin was drawn to the guitar at the age of eleven and became a London-based session guitarist-for-hire in the swinging '60s. His ability to read music as well as his stylistic versatility (he could switch from jazz, pop, classical, flamenco and blues at the drop of a plectrum) meant that he was always busy. As a result, he played on countless records by a variety of well-known hit-making British artists - everyone from Georgie Fame and Tom Jones to Engelbert Humperdinck and Petula Clark. He was making good money but wanted something more, something deeper. His big break came in 1969 when Miles Davis's then drummer, Tony Williams, heard a jam tape that McLaughlin had played on and immediately recruited him for his new jazz-rock group Lifetime. That opportunity in turn led to McLaughlin meeting Miles Davis and playing on the trumpeter's game-changing fusion records 'In A Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew.'

In '71, McLaughlin put his own band together, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a phenomenally powerful and influential quintet that originally featured drummer Billy Cobham and keyboardist Jan Hammer, and became a trailblazers in the nascent field of jazz-rock. He made a spiritual jazz album with Carlos Santana called 'Love, Devotion, Surrender' in 1974 and a little later in the same decade, McLaughlin's interest in Indian music prompted him to form Shakti, whose exotic acoustic sound was a sublime fusion of western and eastern idioms.

Interestingly, there's a perceptible eastern tinge to the guitarist's latest album, 'Black Light,' which was recorded with his band, the 4th Dimension (Gary Husband, Etienne M'Bape, and Ranjit Barot) and follows in the wake of last year's incendiary live recording, 'The Boston Record.' In a candid interview, the venerable fretboard master talks to SJF's Charles Waring about the inspiration and intent behind his latest project...


Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2015 20:02



Tuesday, 06 October 2015 15:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Billy_Cobham_Photo_by_Bob_GruenAs a sideman, he's played jazz with Horace Silver, Stanley Turrentine and Freddie Hubbard, fusion with Miles Davis, George Duke and Stanley Clarke, funk with James Brown, soul with Roberta Flack and even rock with Peter Gabriel, Carly Simon and The Grateful Dead. Add to that already impressive CV Billy Cobham's own work as a leader - with an album discography that to date numbers almost fifty solo projects - and you'll begin to appreciate that he's an artist and musician of real substance and stature.

After gaining world renown playing behind a mountainous drum kit as a founder member of high-decibel jazz-rock pioneers, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, alongside Brit guitarist John McLaughlin between 1971 and 1973, the Panama-born/New York-reared drummer inked a solo deal with Atlantic Records that got off to an auspicious start with the album, 'Spectrum,' now considered a jazz-rock/fusion classic. Cobham spent five productive years with Atlantic, releasing seven albums in all for the company, which are now available all together in a superb 8-CD box set retrospective, 'The Atlantic Years 1973-1978.' With 67 tracks and a running time of almost six hours, it represents a cornucopia of riches for jazz-rock fans in general and Cobham aficionados in particular.

The 71-year-old drummer, now living in Switzerland and still going strong, recently talked to SJF's Charles Waring about his Atlantic tenure and reflected deeply on his long and illustrious career...




Friday, 02 October 2015 19:00 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

gf2GEORGIE FAME'S been at the top of his game for over fifty years, and to celebrate, Universal Music is about to release a remarkable 5 CD box set which focuses on his early years.... 1963-1966. The collection, entitled THE WHOLE WORLD'S SHAKING, offers Georgie's first four albums – including his breakthrough live set with his Blue Flames, 'Rhythm And Blues at The Flamingo' and the acclaimed and in-demand 'Sweet Thing', named for Georgie's exceptional version of the Spinner's Motown song. The box set is out later this month and next month Mr F will be releasing an album of brand new recordings. SJF recently caught up with the Leigh, Lancashire-born jazz man to discuss his wonderfully garlanded career but the first thing we wanted to know was how on earth he kept going and what's the secret of his longevity in the business...

Hard to say but I'm guessing it's a combination of diversity, dedication and lots and lots luck.

OK – so how does a young lad does from Leigh get interested in music... who or what inspired you?

First it was family entertainment with the piano in the front room and then Chapel every Sunday. That gave me harmonic education. Then there was the wireless.... stations like AFN (American Forces Network) and then the advent of Rock N Roll on the radio... people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Little Richard. I also saw a film called 'Sanders Of The River' with Paul Robeson. I remember the song he sang, 'The Canoe Song' with the phrase 'I E I KO'. It stayed with me and I used it later in my version of Sir Van's 'Moondance'.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 October 2015 16:13



Friday, 28 August 2015 14:51 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "I feel like I'm in a witness protection programme," laughs a reflective and disarmingly candid RUMER, the charming Islamabad-born chanteuse whose warm, mellow contralto voice first seduced listeners five years ago with her genre-defying debut album, 'Seasons Of My Soul.' She's referring to the fact that she and her husband - Rob Shirakbari, who's also her producer and musical director - have elected to move from Los Angeles to live in a small, obscure, town located somewhere in deepest Northwest Arkansas. The decision to move there, she reveals, was to remove her from the glare of the spotlight, the perpetual grind of the music business  and relentless scrutiny of the press. "It's sort of like the land that time forgot," she explains. "There are lots of things that are quite old-fashioned, like being able to use a cheque book in a supermarket and the fact that we're the only people that probably recycle.  But there's also some charm about that as well. It's just really interesting and the perfect antidote to the electro-magnetic pollution caused by media exposure."

Certainly, Rumer knows all about media exposure - indeed, the instant fame that she experienced after many years of seemingly fruitless and futile knocking on the door of the music industry put her life out of kilter for a while. "It was so unbelievably hard and tough," she confesses. "It's physically tough, and demanding on your spirit - and on your soul and on your body." It's not an experience that she'd care to repeat and now she's happier and feels more in control of her career. She's also established her own label, Night Owl, and has just compiled what to date is her fourth long player, 'B Sides & Collectables.'  Initially available to her fans exclusively via her website it's now being officially issued by Warner/Rhino. Containing seventeen orphaned songs that were recorded as flipsides, for EPs, compilations and movie soundtracks, it finds golden-voiced Rumer putting her inimitable imprimatur on a range of material that include classic tunes by Christopher Cross, Paul Simon, George Harrison, Burt Bacharach, and Steven Bishop. The latter also guests on the album, as does the legendary Dionne Warwick.

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with the award-winning 36-year-old singer, who talked in detail about her new album as well as her life and music...


Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:25



Thursday, 20 August 2015 07:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Joyce_solo"It's great to be back," admits Joyce Sims, the Rochester singer/songwriter who, most soul music fans will agree, has been absent from the music scene for too long. She's best remembered for her anthemic dance groove, 'Come Into My Life,' an innovative record that successfully fused soul and electro music with club sounds and became a massive global smash. That was in 1987 and a couple of years later, when her label, Big Apple indie, Sleeping Bag Records, bit the dust, Joyce was left in limbo and languished in obscurity for many years.

The good news is, though, that the singer that brought us such era-defining hits as 'All And All' and 'Lifetime Love' is coming back into our lives with a brand new album (her fourth), 'Love Song,' which is released on August 21st via her own August Rose label. It's preceded by a single, 'All I Want Is You,' and even more exciting, perhaps, for her UK fans is the fact that at the time of writing the 56-year-old chanteuse is in the UK and due to perform in Birmingham at the Jam House (tonight, 20th August) and on Saturday 22nd at London's Jazz Cafe. Joyce recently talked to SJF's Charles Waring about her new recording project as well as her career and, of course, the story behind the record that brought her immortality, 'Come Into My Life'...


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 08:20


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