The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



Perth Astor Theatre, October 6 2015


BOOKS & DVD'S 2009-2014 

To try and describe Jazz Fusion to someone brought up on solid simple honest to goodness Rock in all its simplicity is like trying to describe a colour to a visitor to our planet.  Essentially its freeform music that melds and mixes funk and elements of rhythm onto a canvas of complex musical time signatures that at times can be challenging and at others rewarding and even soothing. Then of course you add the amplification of Rock and the essential skill and dexterity of the players… and then it seems you just go for it… To someone brought up on verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus song construction it’s both eye-opening and yet best appreciated with eyes closed.

Not knowing much at all about John McLaughlin and his lengthy pedigree (except some scant knowledge of his dalliances with Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra) before he set foot on stage tonight in Perth is it seems, rather a blessing than a curse and indeed for a novice like me tonight’s performance ends up leaving me far less inadequate than I imagined!

Everyone, they say, should push their boundaries and tonight is the biggest push I’ve ever given mine, challenged from the off, there’s a certain calm about proceedings at The Astor tonight. Sure I’m overwhelmed by the dexterity of the players, certainly I’m unfamiliar with their bread and butter but you know what? It didn’t stop me enjoying this one bit .

If you imagine for a moment music in the world of art then we could say that Rock music is essentially a cartoon of the great masters, recognizable, familiar, yet essentially basic. What Jazz Fusion brings is an unfamiliarity of style, a certain lack of rules and an avant-garde edge, much like the styles of say the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Fauvists or Cubists. Now if you look at a painting and you just look for the representation of recognizable subject matter, you are missing the point entirely with Jazz Fusion. Though of course if you know you subject like 90% of the audience tonight then it’s an entirely different experience.

McLaughlin takes that innate knowledge as read tonight which to be is one of the greatest joys of being here to listen. Sure I can appreciate the intricacies of the set list, the skill of the musicians and the emotion made flesh but unlike the already converted I get the joy of the deep experience of listening with virgin ears. I get to hear and feel what the opening song dedicated to Ravi Shankar actually means, and to be honest it matters less what I already know than the value of the experience it imparts. The downside of course is that with no reference points the night is almost impossible to break down into bite sized chunks that make up the standard concert review!

At times tonight I’m bemused, at others I’m elevated as I let the music wash over me. l find myself closing my eyes at points to ‘hear’ the story the cascading notes bring. And while at times I’m feeling completely inadequate as the crowd applauds a complex progression or passage, and at others I do feel a slight feeling of ‘musical elitism’ (the crowd are far better dressed than your average concert) it’s nothing in comparison to the feeling of real joy and wonder that the music brings (and yes that does surprise me).  

Listening to John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension through my unacustomed ears is like listening to a history you have no concept of and thinking it a wonderful fable made real by a master story teller. For those who know far more than I, I imagine this is pretty much a perfect night.

Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to open your mind to new experiences. I may not rush out and convert to Jazz Fusion overnight but I’m certainly more open to dabbling with it than I would be to taking on a meaty slab of Death Metal… Hold on a minute that might just be my next assignment!



by Leslii Phillips


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