After contributing to several key British groups of the early 1960s McLaughlin made Extrapolation, his first album as a bandleader, in 1969. He then moved to the USA, where he played with Tony Williams’s group Lifetime and then with Miles Davis on his landmark electric jazz-fusion albums In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson and On The Corner.
His 1970’s electric band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, performed a technically virtuosic and complex style of music that fused electric jazz and rock with Indian influences.
McLaughlin has been cited as an influence by a number of prominent musicians. He is a Grammy award winner and has been awarded multiple Guitarist Of The Year and Best Jazz Guitarist awards from magazines such as Down Beat and Guitar Player based on reader polls. In 2003, he was ranked 49th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. In 2010, guitarist Jeff Beck called him the best guitarist alive. Tabla player Zakir Hussain has often referred to him as one of the greatest and most important musicians of our time.
John McLaughlin is a leading guitarist in jazz and jazz fusion. His style has been described as one that incorporates aggressive speed, technical precision, and harmonic sophistication. He is known for using exotic scales and unconventional time signatures. Indian music has had a profound influence on his style, and, it has been written, he is one of the first westerners to play Indian music to Indian audiences. He was influential in bringing jazz fusion to popularity with Miles Davis, playing with Davis on five of his studio albums, including Davis’ first gold-certified Bitches Brew, and one live album, Live-Evil. Speaking of himself, McLaughlin has stated that the guitar is simply “part of his body,” and he feels more comfortable when a guitar is present.
McLaughlin also appeared on Stanley Clarke’s School Days and numerous other fusion albums. They later recorded three tracks at CBS Studios in New York, 8 March 1979. The same year he teamed up with flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell (replaced by Al Di Meola in the early 1980s) as the Guitar Trio. For the tour of fall 1983 they were joined by Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse who opened the show as a soloist and participated with The Trio in the closing numbers. The Trio reunited in 1996 for a second recording session and a world tour. Also in 1979 McLaughlin recorded the album Johnny McLaughlin: Electric Guitarist, the title on McLaughlin’s first business cards as a teenager in Yorkshire. This was a return to more mainstream jazz/rock fusion and to the electric instrument after three years of playing acoustic guitars.
Here are some full albums to check out from different periods of his illustrious career: