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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2000
"Live in Paris", also entitled "The Heart Of Things", includes three of the six themes that were previously released in Mc Laughlin's 1997 studio album with the same title. This CD offers six live themes performed live in Paris and the band is almost the same as in "Heart of Things". The only change is that Otmaro Ruiz replaces Jim Beard on keyboards.
Right from the beginning of this recording the group establishes that they play straight modern jazz-fusion with rock influences but without any psychedelic extravaganzas. Saxophonist Garry Tomas has a main role in the band and so does Otmaro Ruiz who beautifully responds with the keyboard to the music dialog. The performance of drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionist Victor Willimas is perfect and extremely dynamic throughout the concert. Both are responsible for the many rhythm and mood changes and the jazz-rock ambience that is present throughout the concert. McLaughling plays electric guitars and sounds very mature, concentrated, and relaxed. The concert is very much enriched, because Mc Laughling acts as a member of the band instead of a soloist with a backing group. There are several inspired and amazing guitar solos that go in and out of the music scales as he pleases (Mc Laughiling can afford to do so). Musically the album is closer to what you would expect to listen in a Weather Report album or in a C.Corea/A.Dimeola/S.Clarck collaboration, and a departure from previous Mahavishnu projects. Lastly, Matthew Garrison's bass playing is very energetic and supports the group's search for music expansion.
If it weren't for the audience applause celebrating the music's highlights you couldn't tell this CD is a life recording. The sound is outstanding. If you are into jazz-fusion and enjoy crossing music boundaries, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a group where the metals, the guitar, the keyboards, bass and drums have an equal opportunity to show their inspiration and expertise. Live in Paris, summarizes McLaughlin's capabilities as a guitar player and composer, plus it features an active and creative group playing with him. The material presented outperforms the studio CD: "Heart of Things", and the previously realesed live albums.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2000
....
The record kicks off with the truly beautiful and sublime (yet, of course, odd metered) opening melody of "Seven Sisters" which serves the double function of setting a trap for mentally challenged listeners by letting them imagine they're in some sentimental Pat-Metheny-land that's going to stick around for 8 minutes before jolting them out of the blue with some superfast fusion licks. The tune goes through a variety of moods, and is contrasted with a relaxed meditative solo by Mclaughlin and one by saxophonist Gary Thomas, before it kicks into overdrive as Mclaughlin and Thomas simultaneously solo and take the tune out even more beautifully than it started.
A new supercharged version of "Mother Tongues" is next. This is a 13 minute electric version of a tune that appeared in an 18 minute semi-acoustic version on 1989's classic "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" and featured Trilok Gurtu's epoch-making percussion solo. Here, in place of a drum solo, we get to hear Mclaughlin and Ruiz jamming for some five minutes straight, trading endless fast guitar and keyboard licks. If it wasn't for Mclaughin being at the other end of the licks though, things would've sounded merely technical. As it is, welcome to your flight to fusion heaven.
"Fallen Angels" is a quietly magnificent and very deceptive sounding slow meditation that has nothing whatsoever to do with `contemporary jazz' even though the volume levels are the same. First of all, it stays in complex meters which shift throughout (a straight 4/4 or 3/4 meter is a relative rarity on Mclaughlin-land). Second, the spirit and organic cohesiveness that results is truly special and cannot be fully appreciated until you've listened to the tune many times and realized it just keeps getting deeper and better!
"The Divide," a 16 minute fusion odyssey written by Gary Thomas starts off very complicated and smokin' with Thomas delivering a long scorching tenor solo over odd meter (the high point of the record, I think), then rhythmically simplifies just a bit into a funk as Mclaughlin sets up his Mahavishnu style solo, which is soon back flying over more complicated meter again. Mclaughlin, however, to his credit, and to the annoyance of certain `Mahavishnu only fans' , refuses to go back to the hackneyed early `70s Gibson with sustain sound. The result is fresh and poignant. The tone he uses is a uniquely synthesized type of futuristic sounding jazz-rock hybrid with some serious bite to it. It is a GUITAR sound all the way through though, not some wimpy synthaxe sound. The tune does get a little silly towards the end, as Ruiz's good humored and proudly self-indulgent synthesizer solo, endlessly wheezes away, fully aware of the fact that big smiles are being formed on the faces of fusion fans.
"Tony," Mclaughlin's tribute to his former employer features an extended Drum Solo by Dennis Chambers. Folks, this is a flashy drum solo to end all flashy drum solos: it is quite ferocious. Chambers goes crazy on it, unfurling mountains of super-fast fills so thick in sound they make John Bonham sound like a manchichi tapping a toy drum. Cobham and Walden would be proud.
The last tune, "Acid Jazz" completes the 78 minute CD with a bit of a blast from the past. Thomas is featured on soprano in the beginning. Then, after the tune morphs through a `trippy' 'acid' middle section of semi-synthesized layered soundscapes, Mclaughlin distorts his guitar and feedbacks into Mahavishnu land as he plays a solo accompanied only by Chambers (who doesn't waste any time going wild with the fills in the background). Along the way John throws a few nods to one of his heroes, Jimi Hendrix (with whom he jammed on stage once; too bad a tape recorder wasn't running), by incorporating the riff from "Foxy Lady.".....
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Few are playing anything like fusion well these days. But John McLaughlin, one of its best designers and players, has assembled an able band with complex and driving/haunting compositions.
McLaughlin's playing has more of a jazz sensibility than it did in the Mahavishnu days, but that doesn't stop him from pulling out the fuzz box when necessary--as during his stunning duet with drummer Dennis Chambers on the concluding, "Acid Jazz." Yes, he's playing with the "Foxy Lady" (Hendrix) theme on it!
The band is quite tight, but tends to noodle a bit on some pieces. Nevertheless, it grows on you. Chambers is a creative powerhouse and is featured on a long solo on "Tony." McLaughlin does not solo on this piece.
Gary Thomas is an able tenor and soprano saxophonist, but his tone is somewhat muddy at times. I think this is due to recording problems not his own technique.
Matthew Garrison (son of Jimmy Garrison, bassist for the classic Coltrane quartet) is extraordinary busy and innovative on bass guitar, sometimes matching the lead guitar in speed and taste. He is relentlessly interesting.
The only draw major back is the keyboardist's cloying use of the synthesizer on a few pieces (especially the synthesized "voices"). That part of 70s fusion we can leave behind gladly. Give me a competent jazz pianist on acoustic piano any day! Nevertheless, he does trade some nice chops with McLaughlin at times, reminiscent of the Jan Hammer days of Mahahvishnu Orchestra.
Thank you, Mr. McLaughlin for all the enjoyable and excellent music you have given us through the years.
--Douglas Groothuis
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2002
"Live in Paris" is one of Mclaughlin's best recordings and that is saying a lot. This is the best band line-up that he has had since Mahavishnu. If you are expecting Mahavishnu then you are going to be dissapointed, John hasn't tried to recreate that band and it would be borderline impossible to do so. However, if you are looking for a great jazz fusion band performing live then you have found your disc. "Seven Sisters' is the opening tune and Mclaughlin doesn't stray far from the studio version, but the piece does have some interplay between Mclaughlin and Saxophonist Gary Thomas. "Mother Tongues" is a departure from the version he recorded with his trio but it is excellent as all members of the band contribute. "Fallen Angels" is mellow but it gives the listener a chance to catch his/her breath and it still is a good composition. The rest of the disc is incredible. "The Divide" has Mclaughlin and Thomas stepping out to the forefront and ends with a dynamic keyboard solo excursion by Otmaro Ruiz. During the whole song Dennis Chambers displays his amazing ability to constantly come up with new rhythms to a song that demands this. "Tony" is dedicated to the late great Tony Williams and Mr. Chambers performs a typically awe-stiking solo piece in the middle of it. It isn't often when Mr. Williams can be outdone but this is Dennis Chambers and I think that Tony would be flattered. "Acid Jazz" is the closer and what a closer it is. It starts off quite psychedelic,which is fitting and Mclaughlin evokes Hendrixian distorted playing with jazz influence(quite an accomplishment). The tune ends with Mclaughlin/Chambers shaking the room. This disc is highly recommended for all but especially for Chambers fans as it is one of the best exhibitions for , in my opinion, the world's greatest drummer. Mclaughlin has moved away from Mahavishnu but he still performs with amazing groups of musicians and this is one of them.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2000
Three words - buy this CD! You will not be dissapointed. I enjoyed the studio "Hear of Things" album, but this new live offering blows it away. The energy level is much higher and the new tunes such as "Tony" are some of McLaughlin's finest. Dennis Chambers is amazing on here as well. My only complaint is that this should have been a double set, but still - I'll take everything I can get from this band!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2000
This is one of the best produced live recordings that I have ever heard. McLaughlin plays as well as you would expect from such an accomplished musician. Dennis Chambers drumming also adds a lot of energy to this recording. Very contemporary sounding compositions (I especially like the sax/gtr lines on the opening track). I am not a huge McLaughlin fan and I find it a little irritating to listen to McLaughlin picking every note - to me his style sounds very dated when compared with the fluid legato styles of Stern, Metheny, Abercrombie, etc. However I rate this with four stars for the great tunes, superb production and because I can't help but listen to this CD a lot. Highly recommended.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2000
I was actually at [a] show with my best friend. Both of us are huge McGlaughlin fans, especially of Friday Night in San Francisco. Although The Heart of Things tour showcases the meta-music tendencies of these musicians, their execution was flawless and each member of the band has a chance to showcase their talents. Let me just say it is impossible to capture the energy of a live show (especially at La Cigale) but the sound quality is excellent and if you are a true jazz fusion fan the music will take you there
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2007
The live set taken from two Paris concerts in November 1998 aptly shows the utter frustration in following John McLaughlin's career; there are flashes of brilliance in his lightning intensity on electric guitar, but it isn't sustained through mostly unremarkable, plodding numbers.

Though it is unfair to compare each McLaughlin foray into electric fusion with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the keyboards of Otmaro Ruiz are eerily familiar to the self-indulgent accompaniment of Jan Hammer on Between Nothingness and Eternity.

McLaughlin finally lets loose near the end of the final number - Acid Jazz - with his Hendrix-inspired solo sparked by drummer Dennis Chambers, who has the jazz-style of Mitch Mitchell in his sticks. Chambers also highlights the best cut, Tony, where his outstanding solo is between a subtle, atmospheric beginning & end.

A McLaughlin solo on Seven Sisters is sustained long enough as an intro to the saxophone work of Gary Thomas. The charts point to Weather Report on the next trio of numbers - Mother Tongues, Fallen Angels & The Divide - as bassist Matthew Garrison emerges out of the mix by putting his signature on the pieces.

The way McLaughlin introduces the band after Acid Jazz is exhilarating to hear. It is too bad the same can't be said about the six cuts of nearly 80 minutes that were performed before what sounds like very appreciative audiences.
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on September 22, 2014
loved it
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9 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2000
I confess up front that I'm a huge fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and therefore of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. I've tried to reconnect with McLaughlin through the years and I just don't find any of his subsequent work to be of much value. Most of the music on this live CD wouldn't be out of place on a Quiet Storm type jazz radio station and, sure, that doesn't make it bad - just not what I'd hoped for. When he does try to show passion McLaughlin ends up playing scales - very fast scales certainly - but scales nevertheless. Which means he's not offering us anything that a good heavy metal guitarist couldn't give us. And I just find that sad. Excuse me, I think I'll pull out "Birds of Fire" one more time...
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