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John McLaughlin - Where Fortune Smiles CD (album) cover

WHERE FORTUNE SMILES

John McLaughlin

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.10 | 16 ratings

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J-Man
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Though it is often regarded as an album recorded under the leadership of guitarist John McLaughlin, Where Fortune Smiles is more truthfully an equal collaboration between McLaughlin and saxophonist John Surman. Recorded in 1970 and released the following year, this is an ambitious free-jazz release that hardly resembles the style of fusion that McLaughlin is most renowned for. With its loose structure and dissonant melodies, Where Fortune Smiles may not be an album for everybody, but it's still an interesting purchase for curious jazz collectors.

As I've previously mentioned, Where Fortune Smiles should not be looked at as a John McLaughlin solo observation, and maybe even viewing it as a collaboration between McLaughlin and Surman is a bit unfair. Although all of the tracks are credited to the aforementioned musicians, the compositions are so loose in their structure that the direction of the music largely depends on where the soloist decides to take the piece and how bassist Dave Holland and drummer Stu Martin decide to hold the song together. It's a challenging listen for sure, especially if you're not well-versed in free jazz, but each track still has a distinct melody to latch onto. The solos are consistently enjoyable, with Karl Berger's frantic vibraphone work stealing the show for me. The man's playing is simply outstanding, and the other musicians deliver great performances as well.

Some of the tracks here - namely, "Glancing Backwards", "New Place, Old Place", and "Hope" - are totally off the wall jam sessions, but there are some more mellow tracks to break up the madness with "Earth Bound Hearts" and "Where Fortune Smiles". The former features some nice soloing from John Surman, and the latter has some great melodic playing from both John McLaughlin and Karl Berger. While I wouldn't call either of them particularly standout tracks, they serve as effective breaks from the dense and highly improvisational nature of the other tunes.

On the whole, it's a bit tough to recommend Where Fortune Smiles since it is such an improvisational and difficult listen, but I don't think avant-jazz aficionados would regret picking this one up at all. While I personally demand a bit more structure from my jazz music, I still found plenty to enjoy here. Where Fortune Smiles is a cool little album from a quintet that I wish recorded more material, and while it may not be essential, it's a nice bridge between free jazz, post-bop, and fusion.

J-Man | 3/5 |

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