John McLaughlin

“Mahavishnu” John McLaughlin’s recorded legacy comprises so many albums that even he can’t keep track of them all. His contributions to seminal jazz-rock fusion recordings such as Tony Williams’ Lifetime’s Emergency and Turn it Over, and Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew were just the beginning of a nearly 30-year musical odyssey throughout which the intrepid guitarist has traversed the deepest recesses of both the Western and Indian musical traditions, repeatedly emerging with something profoundly beautiful and wholly his own.

Several new additions to the McLaughlin catalog were imminent at press time, including Trio of Doom—a collection of historical recordings featuring Jaco Pastorius and Tony Williams—and the excellent 2-CD The Essential John McLaughlin (both on Columbia Legacy). McLaughlin is also jazzed about an upcoming DVD featuring the final version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1984.

“This group was really special,” he enthuses. “I was also playing the Synclavier synth guitar, which had features that even today’s synth guitars don’t have.”

Here, McLaughlin lists 13 albums that he feels provide an optimal overview of his work, and comments briefly upon each one. When asked to organize them into our usual three categories, however, he demurred.

“It’s really hard for me to classify my recordings, because I love them all,” he says. “They are like my paintings, which record and freeze particular periods in my life, and show really well where I was at both musically and spiritually during those periods. So, I’ve copped out and classified them chronologically. Sorry!”