From his wiry, Eastern-influenced solos on Miles Davis's BITCHES BREW through his world fusion forays with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti, guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin has always shown a keen interest in Indian music. Some 40 years into his career, that influence still holds sway, as 2008's FLOATING POINT attests. Though the synth guitar and polished production make the album less edgy than some of McLaughlin's work from the 1970s, there's no shortage of stunning instrumental work and bold, brain-bending ideas. Recorded in India with mostly Indian musicans, FLOATING POINT is another impressive notch in the guitar icon's lifelong pursuit of East-West fusion.
On the face of it, this live double-album is an expert genuflection to jazz-rock fusion, with five guitarists and a crop of punchy drummers (including Return to Forever's Lenny White and percussion virtuoso Zakir Hussain) to confirm it. But the playing of the seven bands is anything but predictable. The members sit in with each other here, and their embrace of risk and the pleasure they take in spontaneous performance are palpable. John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension have Hussain sit in for usual drummer Ranjit Barot in two fiercely vivacious pieces, including an infectious, choppy, 20-minute Hussein showcase, Mother Tongues. Barot leads a violin-dominated Indian-inflected sextet featuring the New York guitar maverick Wayne Krantz as a guest; Krantz also appears with an edgy avant-fusion trio. The chord-crunching, metal-inspired guitarist Alex Machacek opens proceedings with a fast-moving group extensively featuring electric bassist Neal Fountain.