John McLaughlin covers Straight No Chaser by Thelonious Monk for India fundraiser
AN URGENT PLEA FROM JOHN McLAUGHLIN: Guitar icon releases exclusive video to raise awareness and funds for COVID relief in India, asking all to donate to Project Hope today.
John McLaughlin has made no secret of the musical and spiritual debt that he owes to the people and nation of India. Whether explicit (the unprecedented east/west hybrid of his beloved Shakti ensemble) or implicit (the daring rhythmic structures he transmitted via the Mahavishnu Orchestra), India has exerted a gravitational pull on McLaughlin’s life and music, and his gratitude is boundless.
Now, with India suffocated by a rampant outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus, McLaughlin is asking all of us to give just a little in support of relief efforts there. To encourage donations to the global health and humanitarian organization Project Hope (www.projecthope.org) — who are providing essential supplies and personnel to the Indian people — he has gathered a group of musician friends in Monaco to film an exclusive version of Thelonious Monk’s immortal blues “Straight No Chaser.” This fiery performance is his humble offering, a beacon beaming out to his many admirers with the hope of helping to offset the terrible blight now ravaging India.
Captured live, the performance features McLaughlin alongside pianist Roger Rossignol, bassist JM Kiki Aublette, and drummer Nicolas Viccaro, investing Monk’s timeless, knotty blues theme with an innovative spark and infectious abandon. Through his improvisation, alternately soaring and keening, McLaughlin delights in paying tribute to Monk’s deft rhythmic constructions and cunning use of dissonance. His compatriots are with him at every step, resulting in a conversational, refreshingly human treatment of this timeless standard.
“The world is in dire straits,” McLaughlin implores, “but India is just catastrophic: People dying outside hospitals because there are no beds, there is no oxygen. We recorded this video thinking of them. It is our gift to you in the hope that you will make a small gift.”