If you really want to see John McLaughlin playing the music he made famous with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Friday night’s show at the Florida Theatre might be your last chance.

 

The British guitarist and bandleader said this will be his final tour. “I’m going to take a year off and do occasional concerts, but I’m a little nervous about touring,” McLaughlin, 75, said in a phone interview.

He said he thinks he plays as well as he ever has but wants to be sure he goes out on top.

“Touring has been my life, really,” he said. “There’s nothing I like better. It’s even better than making records, and I like making records. Musically, I”ve never felt better, but if I have one bad day, I feel as if I have betrayed myself, the guys who are playing with me and the public. This is catastrophic for me. I do not want to put myself in that situation, or anyone else for that matter.

Jimmy Herring, guitarist with American jam band Widespread Panic, opens the show with his band, the Invisible Whip. McLaughin will then play with his band, then all nine musicians will get together for a big jam session at the end.

“You’re going to be hearing Mahavishnu music in both sets, from both bands. When we get together for the last set, that’s going to be exclusively the music of Mahavishnu.”

McLaughlin said he’s long been a fan of Herring, dating back to the time he heard Herring playing a Mahavishnu song. “I thought, ‘why didn’t I do it like that?’ He has such a love for that music, and what a lovely man he is.”

McLaughlin moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s and quickly found work playing jazz, first with Tony Williams and later with Miles Davis’ group. It was Davis who suggested that McLaughlin start his own group. That band, Mahavishnu Orchestra, put out elaborate jazz and included players who went on to form the core of ’70s jazz fusion, including Jan Hammer, Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham and Narada Michael Walden.

Mahavishnu Orchestra, by the way, is not and never has been an orchestra. It’s a four-piece band.

McLaughlin said America has always been important to him — listening to Chicago blues as a boy is what first got him interested in guitar — so it made sense to have the last tour in the States. The tour wraps up next month in Los Angeles.

“It’s difficult to underestimate the impact American music had on my life,” he said. “That’s what’s behind this tour. It was a way to bring it full circle and I couldn’t think of a better way to say thank you and God bless you to all the people in America who took that music to heart.”