Every so often I walk over the river to the famous (among Jazz & eclectic music-heads in London at least) Bulls Head in Barnes. Every time I think I am going to see some small possibly interesting gig in the 100 or so seat jazz room. And every time I am blown away by quality, and I think, hm, this should be a 1,500 seat gig. London is funny like that. There are these strange places where hardly any people can fit, and superstar quality just turns up on any night of the week.
A bit late, due to holidays, but too good not to report. I saw the guitar legend and his band the 4th dimension at Ronnie Scott’s in London last month. Probably the most expensive tickets I have ever bought, but to be 10 feet from McLaughlin and the rest of the band … why not?
I won’t bother to try to describe his playing, you can find samples on youtube, but to give an idea, it was in the groove of a) his own music (of course) – louder and tighter than ever, b) reminiscent of Jeff Beck / Jan Hammer in the 80s and c) some sensibilities of Jan Akkerman, the great Dutch Jazz guitarist. McLaughlin goes further and harder than you expect – he plays great jazz lines over hard syncopated rock rhythms.
Gary Husband played keyboards, and as ever, is a great personality in stage. You never know quite what he is going to do. This gig, he left the keyboard for a while and went head to head in a drum duel with Ranjit Barot for around 10 minutes. The presence of two complete drumkits on the stage was a warning that something amusing was likely to happen. It was like the ‘cuttin’ heads’ scene in the Crossroads movie, but with humour. Translated into words… Barot: I’m the real guy here, cop this… Husband: wimp. Take this. Barot: just getting my overcoat off here. Whack! Husband: that sucked, eat my sticks! Barot: off my stage, pretender! …. you get the idea. Etienne Mbappe on bass was just a joy to listen to (especially for me, he was 3 feet away), punching out hard rhythms, lots of slap and melody.
Summary: a bunch of world class musicians + 1 legend in London’s most famous jazz club = perfection.