JAZZ REVIEW Sound Belies Size of McLaughlin Trio By BILL KOHLHAASE
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 13, 1996 Home Edition Calendar, Page 9 Type of Material: Concert Review
Numbers of jazz guitarists, including John Scofield and John Abercrombie, have turned in recent years to the organ trio format to frame their sound. But few make as much of that framing as John McLaughlin.
Part of that success comes from experience. McLaughlin, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers have been a solid working unit since recording the live album "The Free Spirits" at Tokyo's Blue Note club in 1993.
While the trio's appearance Sunday at the House of Blues mirrored the substance of that recording and its follow-up disc (the Coltrane tribute "After the Rain" with Elvin Jones on drums), it also showed continuing refinement in interplay and improvisational freedom as the three men made a tight mesh of their disparate sounds.
McLaughlin's clean, precisely cut play made for sharp contrast with the electronic whine and grind of DeFrancesco's organ. As the guitarist soloed in his familiar, accelerating style, DeFrancesco provided sizzling, sometimes ragged accompaniment. When the organist soloed with down-and-dirty Hammond chords and squealing runs, McLaughlin accompanied with crisp melodious tones.
Add the muscle and inventive drive of drummer Chambers, and you have a sound that seems larger than something generated by three men. During the infrequent times when McLaughlin varied his sound with fuzz tones and other synthesized embellishments, the results were nearly orchestral.
Though the emphasis was squarely on high-energy numbers, McLaughlin and company varied rhythmic formats with such Latin-flavored pieces as his own "Encuentros," which carried a certain acoustic feel despite the electric guitar, and the suspended flow of Coltrane's warm ballad "Naima."
McLaughlin's swirling guitar lines were finely crafted and seemingly designed to flow one to the other. But they often existed outside of any larger context, coming without a sense of wholeness or continuing development.
But that seemed immaterial to the packed house of cross-generational jazz fans and speed-guitar aficionados who cheered his every blistering run.
Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times, 1996.
KOHLHAASE, BILL, JAZZ REVIEW; Sound Belies Size of McLaughlin Trio; Home Edition., Los Angeles Times, 02-13-1996, pp F-9.