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John McLaughlin farewell tour, 5 Things To Know
We want to say it’s not so, but it apparently is.
Guitar legend and jazz-rock fusion pioneer John McLaughlin he of Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” band and his own Mahavishnu Orchestra, is planning to retire from touring. His current The Meeting of the Spirits Tour with Jimmy Herring is one final run through North America, after which McLaughlin, ??, plans to put away his suitcase -- but not, he promises, his guitar or his plans to record more music.
McLaughlin has some regrets and certainly plenty of emotion about this decision, but don’t look for him to change his mind. But by all means take advantage of one last opportunity to see him play...
• McLaughlin says pulling the plug on touring is for pragmatic -- and physical -- reasons. “God bless mother; I inherited music from her but I also inherited arthritis, so it’s creeping up on me,” McLaughlin says. “I think one of the most catastrophic things that could happen would be to go on tour and have a really bad hair day where I’m not really able to play. That’s anightmare for me. I don’t want to get confronted with that situation, so I told the guys in the band, and some months ago, that this is the goodbye tour.”
• McLaughlin also thought it would be most appropriate to say his farewell in North America. “It’s almost full circle in the sense that I arrived at the end of the 60s in New York to play with Tony Williams’ Lifetime and I ended up playing with Miles Davis 48 hours after I arrived and continued to play with him until the last concert in Paris in ‘91. In fact, it was Miles who pushed me to form my own band in October of 1970; He told me straight it’s time to form my own band, and that was Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Mahavishnu in America, the way it was embraced, I can’t express my feelings about that, so I’m coming to North America because of my affection for America, the American people and public who just took me to heart, took my band to heart and my music. It’s the only way I can really say goodbye and thank you.”
• Because of his arthritis, McLaughlin says, “You realize as you get older that tomorrow is not guaranteed for anybody. I’ve been aware of this for quite awhile now, so I really considered every concert to be my last one since we don’t know when we’re going to be taken away and sent back to that wonderful place we came rom. This really is my attitude. We’re just going to play and have a lot of fun, and I’m excited. It’s always a great feeling.”
• The tour also includes a special show in memory of Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucia on Dec. 1 at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in Mexico, which will have special meaning for McLaughlin. “I really miss him, so that will be very meaningful for me,” McLaughlin says. “I talked to (de Lucia) the month before he died, on Mexico on the beach playing football with his kid. We’d already exchanged music and planned a duo album of new music together, from autumn of 2012 on. He sent me some pieces, I sent him some pieces. That record will never be made, of course, but one of the pieces I subsequently recorded (‘El Hombre Que Sabia (The Man Who Knew)’ on 2015’s “Black Light” album) just as a homage. It’s still hard after all these years. It’s like losing family, isn’t it?”
• After touring McLaughlin has a number of recording projects in the works, and he promises that he’ll still have a guitar in his hands whenever he can. “I play every day because I want to, not because I need to. Because I love to. Every time I’m playing I’m happy, even though some days I’m playing like a dog. Everybody has off days, then some days you play like a god. It’s an extension of my body, my soul, my heart. So I’m gonna continue. I mean, the day I stop, I’ll keel over.”
If You Go:
• John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring
• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15.
• Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor.
• Tickets are $34-$80.
• Call 734-668-8463 or visit michtheater.org.
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