Sunday, August 9, 2015

John Mclaughlin - 1971 [1993] "Where Fortune Smiles"

Where Fortune Smiles is a jazz fusion LP credited to John McLaughlin, John Surman, Dave Holland, Karl Berger, and Stu Martin on Dawn Records DNLS ASD 3018, which was recorded in 1970 and released in 1971 in a stereo format.

The truth be told, Where Fortune Smiles was not originally released under the leadership of John McLaughlin. Its reissue on CD with McLaughlin as leader seems to exist for marketing purposes only. The reissue notes indicate a 1971 recording date, but my memories of its original release on PYE Records suggest that it was recorded a year earlier. (However, memories can fade.) The other members of the quintet—bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist John Surman (also on Extrapolation ), vibraphonist Karl Berger, and drummer Stu Martin—each contribute equally to this outing.

The compositions, all by McLaughlin and Surman, have strong head arrangements that are not directly quoted in the free improvisations that follow. Fortune does not even hint at rock or fusion. Do not expect any of the usual clear themes, call and response playing, or unison lines. These differences, which may confound many McLaughlin fans, are also its greatest strengths.

Free jazz is what this release is all about. For listeners who don't normally immerse themselves in this sort of thing, it's a record that can be enjoyed only about once a year. But it remains a must-listen. Whoa! that a quote which will later turn into "One Word" from Birds Of Fire ? Listen to McLaughlin's far-out guitar. Listen to Holland's resonating bass. Listen to Surman as he reveals things to come. Listen for a historical perspective on music which McLaughlin would later deliver.

Jazz critic Scott Yanow wrote: “McLaughlin's raw sound was starting to take shape by this time and his impeccable chops are on full display. So too are those of the underrated vibraphonist Karl Berger and, of course, soprano saxophonist Surman. The foundation is held loosely in place by bassist Dave Holland and drummer Stu Martin. It's a challenging but interesting listen, especially given McLaughlin's later success and popularity.

Track listing

  1. "Glancing Backwards (for Junior)" – 8:54 - Surman
  2. "Earth Bound Hearts" – 4:15 - McLaughlin
  3. "Where Fortune Smiles" – 4:01 - Surman
  4. "New Place, Old Place" – 10:24 - McLaughlin
  5. "Hope" – 7:19 - McLaughlin