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Mostly written in 2009, the music composing 'To The One' was set down in the studio by McLaughlin's current performing outfit, the Fourth Dimension: Gary Husband (keyboards, drums), Etienne M'Bappe (electric bass), and Mark Mondesir (drums). From the surging opener "Discovery" to the gently propulsive title track which closes the programme, McLaughlin's own playing is at its very peak: emotional and probing, exploding into flourishes of rapid-fire sixteenth notes one moment, candid and unguardedly vulnerable the next.
No slavish imitation or sentimental tribute, 'To The One' is a fiery yet open-hearted work, taking on the artistic and spiritual challenges first offered by Coltrane's jazz masterpiece while making extensive use of the pioneering musical and technical vocabulary that McLaughlin has honed since the beginning of his storied career.
If one accepts that jazz-rock was Miles Davis' early 70s bombshell baby then he, along with Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock, among others, was an invaluable midwife. Four decades on, McLaughlin is still playing with fire and finesse and his elder statesman status means that he can cherry pick talent when he assembles a band. The four-piece he leads here is notable for the presence of two powerhouse drummers, Mark Mondesir and Gary Husband (the latter also plays keys), though the real jewel of the sidemen is arguably Cameroonian bass guitarist Etienne Mbappé. His bubbling, percussive lines, seamless slides into double time and razor-sharp sub-divisions of the beat bring forth the sophisticated ruckus that is not so much jazz-rock as jazz that rocks.
McLaughlin is highly effective when playing unison lines with Mbappé, no more so than the spiralling bebop-like melody of Recovery, which is squeezed into a few action-packed bars. These tactics are smartly deployed, but as flawless as the technique is on this set, what is missing is the one thing that has elevated McLaughlin above many of his peers–his lyricism or, as Zawinul's co-conspirator Wayne Shorter would put it, "the need to tell a story". Some of the arrangements are also a touch on the rigid side, with one too many songs breaking up their pulse just as a groove starts to cook.
On the plus side, the Pat Metheny-ish title-track uses a guitar-synthesiser deftly against Husband's intricate comping, but it's still hard to shake the feeling that this is a group that might have a great record in it rather than a group that will make a great record simply because it's a great group. --Kevin Le Gendre
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This album is a masterclass in well crafted jazz ensemble playing. There seems to be a telepathic understanding between the players and the result is just mesmerising. Read morePublished on 5 May 2011 by Alan Berry
To my ears this is the best cd mclaughlin has done for a long while,my only complaint is that it is too short. Read morePublished on 1 Jun 2010 by S. Hutchinson
I'm blown away by this album. As a big fan of JM early mahavishnu and shakti stuff I was begining to wonder if JM could ignite that creative flame for me again and all I can say is... Read morePublished on 28 May 2010 by brian johnston
Another fine album from Johnny McLaughlin. Never one to stand still, this latest has neither the extended compositional ambitions of Industrial Zen, nor is it a generous showcase... Read morePublished on 24 May 2010 by John Ferngrove
This is Mclaughlin's 6th release in his current electric mode (including 5 Peace Band, the live official bootleg and the DVD)and quite possibly his best. Read morePublished on 11 May 2010 by J. MILLER
this is the first album i have ever bought from john,never really been in to him,i cannot recommend this Cd highly enough it is just awesome on every level his guitar playing,Gary... Read morePublished on 1 May 2010 by Ian A. Bury