Recorded at Advision Studios in London on January 18, 1969, Extrapolation was John McLaughlin’s first release as leader and also features John Surman (baritone and soprano sax), Brian Odges (bass), and Tony Oxley (drums). Sitting among McLaughlin’s fiercely controlled playing on Miles’ In A Silent Way (1969), Bitches Brew (1970) and Tony Williams’ Lifetime Emergency! (1969), Extrapolation lights a fuse with the first note and it doesn’t go out until the very last fades into silence. This is mood music – the entire LP holds my attention and keeps me in the same place throughout, never once breaking the spell.
I read somewhere, a very long time ago, that McLaughlin plays it so ‘straight’, sans effects, on Extrapolation in part to silence his critics who claimed he relied too heavily on effects as affectation. I also know people who don’t care for this record feeling that McLaughlin’s playing is nothing more than a race to fit as many notes into a given moment as possible. To each his or her own but to the latter listener I’d suggest that they are hearing a race because its something they value and this focus has effectively limited their ability to hear between and around the notes. To hear the larger story and fall into its mood.
And even though this isn’t billed as a quartet in name, it is one in spirit and the supporting cast do much more than support. John Surman takes on the roll of McLaughlin’s alter ego weaving intricate patterns in time, Brian Odges double bass adds melodic undercurrents, and Tony Oxley keeps the whole thing cooking. I’ve owned and listened to this record since the late ’70s and I’ve never once tired of the tales it has to tell or the places it places you in.