100407 John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension, Ottawa, ON

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On October 4th, 2007 I walked to the beautiful Dominion-Chalmers Church to see an Ottawa Jazz Festival-sponsored concert featuring John McLaughlin and his new band The 4th Dimension.

McLaughlin is a guitarist’s guitarist, he’s exceptionally fast yet fluid, such a strong player and extremely demure at the same time.  The guy is the Tao of guitar – music pours out of him like a cascading river, his notes bubble and swirl in a steady, sensible, ever-changing and unpredictable path that is powerful, tranquil, and mesmerizing.  To my mind all the spirituality that is heaped onto Carlos Santana actually emanates from John McLaughlin.

And he’s that rare player who often defers to the musicians around him with an egoless fervour.  He’s like the bodhisattva who, discovering a starving tiger in his path without milk to feed it’s young, lays down in front of the beast with a quiet smile and selflessly gives himself to her. 

For this show McLaughlin was a stoic giant, standing on the church’s altar-stage looking a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi and playing a lot like Buddha.  But what really stands out for me was how much he turned over the limelight to his sidemen, and one in particular: a young bass player named Hadrien Feraud.

“For me, he’s the new Jaco,” claimed John McLaughlin, and there can be no higher praise for a bass player than that.

I won’t weigh in on such a comparison but this guy can play the bass.  I mean, Hadrien Feraud is an astounding monster, scrolling through lines so rapidly and machine-like they almost sounded like drone notes.  I have quite simply never seen anything like him.

The guy is definitely a bass player’s bass player.  Being a bit of a bass player myself I walked out of the show with his solo CD.

I also walked out with a peaceful ohm running through my skandhas, feeling exactly like a tiny reflection in the Jewel Net of Indra, individual and yet interconnected through the greatness that can be achieved with twelve magical, repeating, out-of-tune notes.  Which I am.


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