John McLaughlin reflects on “both the perils and potential” of the past year and more with his latest album Liberation Time.

The esteemed guitarist, composer and bandleader says his new record is a “direct response” to the world coming to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic. The album encompasses frustration, joy and reflection, harnessing and redirecting all of that energy. “The result was an explosion of music in my mind,” McLaughlin says.

Unlike McLaughlin’s other recent projects, Liberation Time isn’t the work of a single ensemble. Rather, he drew upon decades of experience as a bandleader to select musicians best suited to each composition. “That is a choice that can only be made correctly if you know how the musicians play,” he explains. “Not just how well they play technically, but how they play intuitively. Only then can you make the right decisions.”

Among the musicians featured on the album are drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Ranjit Barot and Nicolas Viccaro; bassists Sam Burgess, Etienne Mbappe and Jerome Regard, pianists Gary Husband, Roger Rossignol and Oz Ezzeldin; and saxophonist Julian Siegel. The record also features McLaughlin performing alone at the piano, an instrument he has not recorded on since his Carlos Santana collaboration Love Devotion Surrender in 1973.

“We are all jazz musicians, and there is much love between jazz musicians,” McLaughlin says. “All the musicians I invited to perform with me know that there will not only be collective playing, but they will have the possibility to express their individuality spontaneously. This is the great characteristic of jazz.”

The seven-song set of original compositions was recorded in Monaco, Paris, London, Cairo and Los Angeles. It includes Lockdown Blues, which was first released last summer to benefit the Jazz Foundation of America.

McLaughlin has released 18 previous solo records since 1969. Liberation Time follows his 2015 studio album Black Light, recorded with his band 4th Dimension.

A two-time Grammy Award winner, McLaughlin is one of the pioneers of jazz fusion thanks to his work with Miles Davis and as leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest guitarists.

Liberation Time will be released July 16 via Abstract Logix.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. As the Spirit Sings
  2. Singing Our Secrets
  3. Lockdown Blues
  4. Mila Repa
  5. Right Here, Right Now, Right On
  6. Shade of Blue
  7. Liberation Time

Watch a video preview of Liberation Time below.