I recently watched an inspiring video of John McLaughlin performing with a group of young international musicians who were about to graduate from the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain. The spectacular, modernist campus opened in 2012 and was the first international campus established by the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. The 2017 performance I saw took place as part of La Nit de Berklee, the annual commencement concert for the college. McLaughlin received an honorary doctorate that year and participated in the commencement festivities.
Photo by Tato Baeza, courtesy of Berklee Valencia Campus
The concert video triggered for me a number of memories about McLaughlin. I first heard him with Miles Davis in 1969 on the album In a Silent Way and as a member of The Tony Williams Lifetime group the same year. But it was McLaughlin’s 1971 album My Goal’s Beyond that really reeled me in. The music was influenced by both the guitarist’s love of Indian music as well as his discipleship with his guru, Sri Chinmoy. One side of the record featured McLaughlin with a group of musicians including bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Cobham, flutist/saxophonist Dave Liebman, tabla player Badal Roy, and tanpura (Indian drone) player Mahalakshmi. The flip side was solo McLaughlin. I listened to this seminal album all the time. It’s an early example of world music, where