John McLaughlin / John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

Now Here This

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For anyone who's paid attention to John McLaughlin's recorded output since the turn of the century, it's obvious that he's been on a creative streak unequaled since his days as a Miles Davis sideman and his early Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings. Whether it's his two Remember Shakti sets, or the guitar-and-strings offering that was Thieves and Poets, the Indian carnatic intensity of his Floating Point band, or his forays into fiery, improvisational jazz-rock terrain on Industrial Zen, the evidence is clear. With his latest band, the 4th Dimension, McLaughlin has been on a tear. The band's first offering, To the One, is a direct jazz-rock investigation of John Coltrane's influence on McLaughlin's musical thinking. Now Here This is a knottier jazz-rock fusion offering -- with all the positive connotations of that word and none of the negative. Keyboardist Gary Husband and Cameroonian über-bassist Etienne M'Bappé are holdovers from To the One, while drummer Mark Mondesir has been replaced by Ranjit Barot, who helmed the kit on Floating Point. McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension marry propulsive prog rock to Indian modalities to serious grooves (thanks in no small part to M'Bappé's wildly funky, virtuosic bass playing and Barot's triple-timed breaks and fills). Check opener "Trancefusion" for evidence of kinetic, infectious stop-and-start fusion that keeps rock and jazz in dynamic tension. "Riff Raff" careens with funky bass and keyboard interplay and massive guitar and drum kit grooves. "Echoes from Then" showcases McLaughlin's frenetically rhythmic rock soloing on an extended bass and keyboard vamp, while "Call and Answer" allows Husband to show off his post-bop chops in fluid right-hand flourishes. For balance, there are a couple of mellower cut such as "Wonderfall" (with lovely, languid bass work from M'Bappé) and "Not Here, Not There," a more R&B-oriented, midtempo, jazz-funk vamp that features lyric, emotive playing from McLaughlin. "Guitar Love" is a more rock-based jam, while closer "Take It or Leave It" mines Indian harmony, complex syncopation, and spacey funk with intuitive guitar and keyboard exchanges. Now Here This not only continues the excellent run of albums McLaughlin's amassed in the 21st century, it also displays the 4th Dimension not as a group of sidemen, but as an exciting working band which possesses depth, breadth, and imagination.

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