Danial Peter, a guitar buff with a very clear presenting style, has recently posted this fascinating breakdown of what John McLaughlin actually plays in the side-long epic ‘Right Off’, on Miles Davis’ ‘A Tribute To Jack Johnson’ (1971).
Famously, the track began as an informal jam between John and the two other musicians on bass and drums, with Miles rushing in from the control room when he heard it. (Later in the track, Herbie Hancock, who had literally wandered in to say hi, on his his way past the studio with a bag of groceries in his hands, was motioned over to an unfamiliar keyboard by Miles and ends up playing on the track there and then.)
I play a bit of guitar – no great theory expert, all bluff and instinct, really – but Daniel’s revelation that John is really only playing a Bb7 is fascinating to me. Being John McLaughlin he, of course, stretches and inverts the living daylights out of that chord, making it sound to the fairly casual listener like an armoury of chords. Clever and yet, in a way, simple stuff. The performance was all about the groove – keeping it moving, with an illusion of change throughout.