Meeting of the Spirits finds its fourth iteration in the fall tour currently underway with John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring, two guitar titans from different generations but identical mindsets. McLaughlin has been involved in all four.
“Meeting of the Spirits” was a song on the inaugural album by The Mahavishnu Orchestra in September 1971, The Inner Mounting Flame. I remember that one very well, because The Mahas was the second concert I booked as concert chairman at Lehigh University in March of 1972. I did it on the strength of that album and McLaughlin’s two Douglas recordings, the astoundingly psychedelic Devotion and, for something completely different, My Goal’s Beyond, the first album under the name Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Half of that album was acoustic world fusion wrapped in Indian classical music, the other acoustic guitar with minimal background.
Iteration two was a recording where McLaughlin was joined by two other guitar masters: Paco de Lucia and Larry Coryell. It was a 1999 performance at Royal Albert Hall. (McLaughlin’s other famous guitar trio recordings were with de Lucia and Al di Meola.)
The third appearance was on a project by cellist Matt Halmovitz employing tunes by a variety of composers, including McLaughlin and his “Open Country Joy” in 2010.
Come we now to the glorious pairing of kindred spirits in McLaughlin and Herring.
McLaughlin’s incredible resume boasts his superb solo recordings, the aforementioned trios, a tenure with Miles Davis during the period from In a Silent Way through Big Fun and including, of course, Bitches Brew. He formed an incredible band with Indian musicians for Shakti, played with Tony Williams’ Lifetime and the Trio of Doom, and appeared in the movie Round Midnight with Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and others.
More recently, he recorded with Chick Corea on Five Peace Band (2009), released The Boston Record (2014), and followed up with this year’s Live at Ronnie Scott’s.
Herring, meanwhile, has a deep resume albeit over a shorter time span (he’s 55, McLaughlin is 75). He earned his first stripes with Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret., in his seminal Aquarium Rescue Unit. He played in Jazz is Dead with titans Billy Cobham and Alphonso Johnson, with The Other Ones and with The Dead, with Frogwings and Les Claypool. He founded and recorded with Project Z and with others on Endangered Species. And of course he has been the lead guitarist for Widespread Panic since 2006.
His first solo album, Lifeboat (2008), is a sonic delight, and its 2012 successor, Subject To Change without Notice, is a masterpiece. Along for the ride on many of Herring’s projects has been ARU bandmate and drummer Jeff Sipe (Apt. Q-258).
Also notable in Herring’s resume is his inclusion on a set of fusion albums recorded in 2005 to honor Miles Davis, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and more. Consider the serendipity of the song Herring plays on Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse: “Meeting of the Spirits.”
So it was inevitable that McLaughlin and the Fourth Dimension and Herring and the Invisible Whip would collaborate. The MO for this tour is a set by The Jimmy Herring Band, then one by the John McLaughlin Band, and then an onstage fusion with everyone. A recent live broadcast highlighted the amazing power of this fusion.
Of no small note is the fact that McLaughlin has announced this as his USA farewell tour. Also, a show dedicated to the late de Lucia has been scheduled at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival December 1st.
The Fourth Dimension includes drummer Gary Husband, bassist Etienne M’Bappé, and Ranjit Barot, drums and konokol. (M’Bappé and Herring played together in The Ringers in 2013-2014.)
The Invisible Whip includes Sipe, keyboardist Matt Slocum, multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby, and bassist Kevin Scott.
The tour, which began November 1st, continues this evening (Saturday, November 11th, at The Lincoln Center in Washington and will conclude December 9th at UCLA.
MEETING OF THE SPIRITS
11/10 New Jersey Performing Arts Center | Newark NJ
11/11 The Lincoln Theatre | Washington DC
11/12 Duke Performing Arts Center | Durham NC
11/15 The Michigan Theater | Ann Arbor MI
11/17 The Vic Theatre | Chicago IL
11/18 The Vic Theatre | Chicago IL
11/19 Butler Arts Center | Indianapolis IN
11/21 Schermerhorn Symphony Center | Nashville TN
11/22 Woodruff Arts Center Atlanta Symphony Hall | Atlanta GA
11/24 The Florida Theatre | Jacksonville FL
11/25 Ruth Eckerd Hall | Clearwater FL
11/27 Joy Theater | New Orleans LA
11/30 Paramount Theatre | Austin TX
12/01 Riviera Maya Jazz Festival | Playa del Carmen MX**
12/05 Moore Theatre | Seattle WA
12/06 Revolution Hall | Portland OR
12/08 The Warfield | San Francisco CA
12/09 UCLA Royce Hall | Los Angeles CA