“FUSION LIVES!” This was the mantra repeated by an enthused patron during breaks between songs at The Egg on Thursday, November 2nd. Few would disagree with her this evening, one that included the legendary and inspired sounds of Mahavishnu Orchestra great John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, with Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip opening the night on the Meeting of the Spirits Tour.
Herring’s new group includes former Aquarium Rescue Unit bandmate Jeff Sipe on drums, Matt Slocum on B3 organ and clavinet, Kevin Scott on bass and Jason Crosby on keyboards and violin – and they were just the opening act. Groovy funk lines from Scott laid the foundation for flowing instrumentals, with hints of the Flecktones heard in spots throughout the set. Crosby and Slocum blended together perfectly, and Sipe sat masterfully behind the kit. “Les Brers in A Minor” was a delight to all, nodding to Herring’s time with Allman Brothers Band and respect to the late Gregg Allman.
As John McLaughlin took the stage with the 4th Dimension, the audience was ecstatic, with chirps of excitement coming out of the crowd in a raucous ovation. This being McLaughlin’s final tour, he played little new material, “El Hombre Que Sabia” in tribute to Paco Lucia, and made the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra come alive once again.
There were instances where the foursome onstage – Mclaughlin, Gary Husband (drums/vocals), Etienne Mbappe (bass) and Ranjit Barot (percussion) – sounded like they were recreating Frank Zappa songs, but with fewer personnel needed to build compositions to a frenzied state before returning to earth. Mbappe’s tone on bass was like an Altoid – curious strong, for he was wearing gloves the entire night. Jazz musicians gonna jazz I guess. Husband’s vocal effects on the kit and his superb double team with Barot (and later, with Sipe) drove the set towards a triumphant close.
The Invisible Whip joined the 4th Dimension for Mahavishnu Orchestra compositions, and altogether with nine musicians on stage, Jimmy’s jazz rock and John’s jazz fusion took alternating turns leading the way, with McLaughlin stepping to the side at times to let Jimmy and the rest do their thing. When McLaughlin broke out the two-necked guitar, the audience was captivated. When he wailed on the whammy bar of his Paul Reed Smith ‘PRS,’ it created a most unique and melodic tone, not a wank on a note for show. Combined together, these two legendary guitarists, John Mclaughlin and Jimmy Herring, along with two powerhouse drummers, brought to mind influences that could be found among the music of Col. Bruce Hampton and Aquarium Rescue Unit, Phish, Frank Zappa, and all the rest who take a ride on the spacious musical journey that is improvisation.