John McLaughlin gets chatty about his connect with India and its music

Updated: Feb 04, 2018, 12:03 IST | Kusumita Das

A little more than a week after he bagged a Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, legendary British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin will be performing in Mumbai

Dimension
Dimension

A little more than a week after he bagged a Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, legendary British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin will be performing in Mumbai. Together with his band, the 4th Dimension, featuring Ranjit Barot alongside bassist Etienne Mbappe and pianist and drummer Gary Husband, McLaughlin will be taking his audience on a hitherto unseen musical journey. The 75-year-old guitarist, better known as "Mahavishnu" John McLaughlin [thanks to his band Mahavishnu Orchestra that he formed in New York in 1971] started the 4th Dimension in 2007. He calls it the "greatest band of all time". Ask him why he says, "Because it integrates so many dimensions of the human being - from the most capricious to the most sublime."

McLaughlin has been a frequent visitor to India and shares a deep connect with Indian classical music and the maestros of the same - like Ustad Zakir Hussain and the late U Srinivas, mandolin legend. Where does this connect come from, we ask. "This is a tricky question to answer, since I don't really know." He continues, "In the 1960s, when I and many others began looking for answers to the great questions of existence, it was inevitable that we find ourselves in India, for the simple reason that India has been addressing these questions for thousands of years. A second response is the music of India and its connection to the above questions and its closeness to jazz improvisation. These are the outward answers to your questions. But, there is also an interior connection that I have with India that is unexplainable. On arriving here for the first time, to feel that I knew this country from another life. Even the great Ustad Zakir Hussain believes we were together in India in another life. Who can tell?"

Barot and McLaughin crossed paths in 1991 at the North Sea Jazz Festival, where they had "profusely sweated over eating some hot Indonesian food". "I didn't see him again until years later when we met at Zakir Hussain's memorial concert for his father. We had an impromptu jam session that evening and then John ji approached me to record an album with him at AR Rahman's studio in Chennai," Barot tells us. It was in 2011, when he got the call for the 4th Dimension.

Ask McLaughlin to share his thoughts on Barot, and he says, "I see Ranjit as a mirror image of myself. He's like my brother with whom I can share my deepest thoughts and feelings, and the most ribald of jokes. And, he's someone who loves Western jazz traditions so much, he has integrated them perfectly into his own tradition. The result is stupendous."

While the set awaits to be experienced, Barot makes an attempt to describe it in words. "It's action, reaction born from the same moment. So you can imagine how electric it is, both for us and the audience. John ji has an amazing ability to create just enough of a structure to keep things from spiralling out of control and providing a huge space for us to improvise night after night."

When: 8 pm, February 9
Where: The Quarter, The Royal Opera House, Charni Road
Entry: Rs 999 - Rs 9,999
Call: 23690511

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