John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension: Live @ Ronnie Scott’s
By the end of 2017, John McLaughlin will have played what’s billed as his final American tour, a couple dozen shows in tandem with fellow guitar slinger Jimmy Herring. McLaughlin will be accompanied on those shows, as he is on this nine-track set from Ronnie Scott’s jazz club—a London institution for nearly six decades—by his 4th Dimension, a quartet that’s become, in recent years, McLaughlin’s most reliably creative team since the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ‘70s. If he has indeed given up the road for good, then, hopefully, he’ll choose at least to return to this venue on occasion with this outfit—Gary Husband (keyboards), Etienne M’bappé (bass) and Ranjit Barot (drums)—to take it as far as it can go because they’re on to something. The Mahavishnu namedrop isn’t gratuitous: 4th Dimension comes closest among McLaughlin’s regular bands of recent decades to re-exploring that world, sans some of its excesses, while bringing something undeniably new to the mix. On material drawn from those early recordings—“Meeting of the Spirits,” “Miles Beyond” and “Vital Transformation”—the guitarist manages to approximate the experimentalism and pure combustibility of Mahavishnu while relying on his compatriots to update the concept. On “New Blues, Old Bruise,” a song that McLaughlin cut with Chick Corea, drums, keys and guitar burst and recede in admirable lockstep, and “Sanctuary” often masquerades as a dirge, filling its spaces with the type of unworldly histrionics only this masterful player is capable of creating on the fly.