Gig review: John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension, Edinburgh

The Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

The Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

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“It’s about time you invited me back to Scotland,” smiled silver-haired 74-year-old John McLaughlin, his soft Yorkshire accent and modest tone belying the huge influence of his music.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival | John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension | Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Rating ****

The Marcin Wasilewski Trio brought delight with original material and covers alike in their Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival performance. Picture: Andrzej Lazarz

The Marcin Wasilewski Trio brought delight with original material and covers alike in their Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival performance. Picture: Andrzej Lazarz

A former guitarist for jazz greats Tony Williams and Miles Davis (he played on the latter’s seminal Bitches Brew), and player with Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, he was also the founder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti in the 1970s.

Both groups broke boundaries in fusing Western rock and jazz playing with contemporary Indian styles.

His reputation still carries, for the house was packed here.

McLaughlin’s latest project is 4th Dimension, a loose and sometimes improvisational quartet featuring his virtuosic guitar playing alongside fellow established jazz player Gary Husband on piano and occasional drums, fluid jazz drumming and wordless, scat-style vocal rhythms from Indian film composer Ranjit Barot, and deep, thumpingly intricate basslines from French-Cameroonian player Etienne Mbappe.

Together they effortlessly trod the line between jazz and rock, serving up rhythms which vaguely echoed drum ‘n’ bass on McLaughlin’s co-write with the late Paco de Lucia El Hombre Que Sabia (‘The Man Who Knew’), a surging rhythmic backdrop from Mbeppe on Pharaoh Sanders’ Light At the Edge of the World, and a lithe, bluesy groove on Husband’s Sulley.

McLaughlin’s songs included Little Miss Valley and the recent composition Kiki, on which the proggish dynamism of his guitarwas allowed free rein.

Exchanging fistbumps and cheery conferences between songs, this mesmerising quartet boiled together influences with fierce skill and infectious enthusiasm.

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