John McLaughlin: New Place, Old Place
New Place, Old Place
John McLaughlin (guitar)
Where Fortune Smiles (One Way Records OW 29312)
Karl Berger (vibes), Stu Martin (drums).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: New York, May 1970
Rating: 75/100 (learn more)
Vibraphonist Karl Berger's curious riffs call for an answer. Guitarist John McLaughlin quickly responds. Saxophonist John Surman adds an exclamation mark. Drummer Stu Martin and bassist Dave Holland add their own punctuation. This is going to be a cool piece. Then, to the horror of any grammarian, all semblance of form and structure is quickly abandoned. There are no rules left. There is interesting noise for a few minutes. After that? Get me out of here!
But wait, we are being saved by a hint of the opening riff. It means safety to us at this point. Here we go! Alas, it is not enough. We are left hanging by our sliding-down-a-chalkboard-fingernails to get through this thing. What's worse, we are not even midway into the tune! The call-&- response patterns of the cool riff return again. It is again an interesting sound. Still it is not enough to rescue this music.
These are all great players, yet the music just doesn't work. As a standalone piece, uninfluenced by outside issues, "New Place, Old Place" would have no place in my CD player. But of course there are outside issues. This song rates a 75 only because there is value in hearing how these influential musicians were trying to find their way. Clearly, this is one journey of discovery from which they never returned. But great failures can be as important as great successes. There are seeds scattered in this performance. You just have to get down on your hands and knees with a sifter to find them.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky