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John McLaughlin farewell tour, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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We want to say its 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 dont 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 its 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 Im not really able to play. Thats anightmare for me. I dont 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. Its 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 its time to form my own band, and that was Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Mahavishnu in America, the way it was embraced, I cant express my feelings about that, so Im 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. Its 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. Ive been aware of this for quite awhile now, so I really considered every concert to be my last one since we dont know when were going to be taken away and sent back to that wonderful place we came rom. This really is my attitude. Were just going to play and have a lot of fun, and Im excited. Its 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. Wed 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 2015s Black Light album) just as a homage. Its still hard after all these years. Its like losing family, isnt it?

After touring McLaughlin has a number of recording projects in the works, and he promises that hell 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 Im playing Im happy, even though some days Im playing like a dog. Everybody has off days, then some days you play like a god. Its an extension of my body, my soul, my heart. So Im gonna continue. I mean, the day I stop, Ill 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.

Web Site: www.michtheater.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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