100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks

John McLaughlin
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Michael Ochs Archive/Getty49/100

49. John McLaughlin

After playing with British Blues Bands in the mid-Sixties, McLaughlin moved to New York, where he helped pioneer the jazz rock that became known as fusion in the early Seventies. Miles Davis' jazz-rock classic Bitches Brew doesn't just feature McLaughlin, it also boasts a track named after him. In 1971, McLaughlin formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which combined the complex rhythms of Indian music with jazz harmonies and rock power chords. McLaughlin played blizzards of notes, clearly influenced by the sheets of sound of his idol, John Coltrane. The first two Mahavishnu albums, The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire, are every bit as incendiary as their titles suggest.

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