John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring’s ‘Meeting of the Spirits Tour’: an aural sensory treat

John McLaughlin & Gary Husband

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida–November 25, 2017–Meeting of the Spirits Tour–John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring

John McLaughlin

I have been waiting to finally see John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension since I interviewed him in 2015.  The Meeting of the Spirits Tour, which consisted of John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring, and their respective bands, rolled into Clearwater, Florida on November 25, 2017 to partially filled auditorium. The fact it was Thanksgiving weekend may have had some play but certainly those that attended were either hardcore jazz fans (I saw bumper stickers in the parking lot that read “I love serious jazz”) or Jimmy Herring “Widespread Panic” fans, as I later found out by speaking with concert attendees.  I was pleased to see a large number of Millennials, which was encouraging, as mostly Baby Boomers enjoy jazz fusion.  Nevertheless, all that attended were presented with a three-hour feast of one of the most beautiful concerts I have attended.

Jimmy Herring & the Invisible Whip

The first set consisted of Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip, which is comprised of Jimmy Herring – guitar; Jeff Sipe – drums; Matt Slocum – B3 Organ/Clavinet; Kevin Scott – bass; and Jason Crosby – Fender Rhodes/violin.  They played for a good hour and trust me, nobody was complaining. In-between song takes the fans enthusiastically cheered and stood. Their performance was utterly mesmerizing and people were actually paying attention since cell phones were prohibited, I heard, although I saw a few being held up to take photos. We were hearing pure music—and it was jazzy and funky, causing a lot of head bobbing in the audience.  There was plenty of clavinet plunking, gong hitting, electric violin playing, and electric guitar lead to satisfy both jazz and jam band lovers.

John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

The second set consisted of John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, which is comprised of John McLaughlin – guitar; Gary Husband – keyboard/drums; Étienne Mbappé – bass; Ranjit Barot – drums. The band who started with one of my favs “Here Comes the Jiis” which was featured on  their last album Black Light. Another stand out was “El Homebre Que Sabia” which pays homage to McLaughlin’s long-time friend Paco de Lucia who passed away in 2014.  Usually I take notes during the show but while hearing this set, I felt compelled to watch, listen, and feel the music for a change. It is very cerebral and emotional, and listening at Ruth Eckerd Hall, which has the best acoustic quality around, was sheer aural pleasure. Watching McLaughlin on guitar just reminded me why he is at the top of his class–a master and a musician’s musician for sure. He was bopping around, smiling, and seemed to be like a “kid in a candy shop” while trading licks and smiles with the other band members, as his affection for them was quite apparent. Mbappé plucked the bass strings with his infamous gloved hands, Husband masterfully played the keys (and later the drums in Set 3). Barot’s drumming was phenomenal and I enjoyed the addition of the Konokol.

John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension and Jimmy Herring & the Invisible Whip doing the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra

The third set consisted of members of both John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension and Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip performing the songs of Mahavishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin came out with a beautiful blue Paul Reed Smith double-neck guitar which had both twelve string and six string options. This custom-piece is honestly a work of art and will be auctioned at the conclusion of the tour. One hundred percent of the funds will be donated to the “Music Therapy Programme” for children in Ramallah, Palestine. A beautiful guitar for a beautiful man and a beautiful cause!

The set which included songs like “Dance of the Maya”, “Birds of Fire”, and “Eternity’s Breath Part 1 and 2” cannot even be described in words. The complexity of the compositions appeared like “controlled chaos” as melodies, riffs, and beats intertwined and dueted to create what can be described as “otherworldly music”.  It was not only beautiful to watch and experience as colored lights flashed, mirrored balls twirled, and music filled the air to create a psychedelic and sensory experience sans the use of mind-enhancing drugs. Pure aural pleasure.

The band departed after taking a bow on the front of the stage but returned after roaring clapping and cheers for an encore.  The band returned and played the appropriate “Be Happy” which is exactly how everybody was feeling at the end of the concert. Those that did not attend missed possibly the concert of the year and the opportunity to see and hear the most-skilled musicians on the planet today.

Partial Set List

Set 1- Jimmy Herring & the Invisible Whip

John McLaughlin

Les Brers in A Minor

Sketch Ballad

Matts Funk

Jungle Book

Black Satin


Set 2 – John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

Here Come the Jiis

Lila’s Dance

New Blues

El Hombre Que Sabia

Light at the Edge of the World

Echos from Then

Set 3- Combined bands–Songs of Mahavishnu Orchestra

Meetings of Spirits

Birds of Fire

Lotus on Irish Streams

Dance of Maya


Earth Ship

Eternity’s Breath Part 1

Eternity’s Breath Part 2


Be Happy


Photo Gallery

Jimmy Herring and the invisible Whip

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

Both John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension and Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip

The Music of Mahavishnu Orchestra




The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission to Rock At Night and the photographer. Use of any image is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws.

Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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