JOHN MCLAUGHLIN AND THE 4TH DIMENSION at Koerner Hall (273 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, November 11), 8 pm. $42.50-$62.50. 416-408-0208. See listing.
When lightning-fast guitar shredding is experiencing a revival by indie buzz acts like Marnie Stern and PS I Love You, the timing's good for legendary jazz rock guitar god John McLaughlin to crank up his amp and show the kids how to wail like Coltrane.
After spending much of the 90s exploring world music and acoustic instrumentation, the 68-year-old virtuoso has rediscovered the blazing electric flavours he was famous for from his days with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and on Miles Davis's psychedelic-fusion records.
"Electric guitar is my love," says a cheerful, talkative McLaughlin, "and I'll be playing it until I fall down and I'm not able to play it any more."
Looking at the tour schedule in support of his latest album, To The One (Abstract Logix), you might get the impression that he lives to be on the road. But it turns out his busy schedule reveals a love for the guitar rather than an addiction to touring.
"I just love to play, and that's the beginning and end of it. Touring North America is not easy. Already our fees are down substantially because of the economic crisis. We're definitely not doing it for the money. We're not even here to sell records, because the idea of touring to promote an album is over. We basically play out of love, and hope we don't lose money."
That doesn't mean he's pissed off at the iPod for destroying the record industry. Quite the opposite - McLaughlin's a big fan of the technology and happy to have escaped the major label machine. For one thing, nobody's pressuring him to pad his albums with filler.
"We don't really sell records any more, but when I was with the major labels, they'd always complain if the album wasn't long enough. To me, it's about quality, not quantity. Why are you counting the minutes? You wouldn't tell a painter that he needs to fill up a 3-by-3-foot canvas every time.
" Like everyone else, I used to have to deal with the record companies' coercive techniques. Luckily, I don't have to worry about those considerations any more."