How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
One big question that comes up every now and then is "what direction is jazz going?" The answer you get depends on who you ask.
Guitarist Greg Chako is a forward thinker and this two disc set presents his vision, serving as a musical road map. The combination of Chako's acoustic guitar with horns, percussion, keyboards, and acoustic bass lends his group a wholly original sound. These songs move through swing, the blues, and ballads.
Two tunes from the first disc, "Saito's Serenade" and "Inspiration Blues," present a solid traditional jazz sound. But there are sweet surprises all over this set. "Poinciana" kicks off with the horns stating the melody, and when Chako takes his guitar solo later in the tune, he cleverly brings it right back to the horns. The return is refreshing. "Integration II" moves into new territory by incorporating a funkier feel. All the tunes on the second disc are original compositions, except for "The Hunny Lady," written by pianist Michael Stanton. It also features some interesting percussion work on the tablas and surdo drum. Sonically speaking, this set is oustanding. The cymbals are bright, the drums pop, and each instrument comes out sparkling and clear.
In this age of reissues and alternate takes, it's refreshing to hear jazz that takes some chances and looks the future right in the eye.
Track Listing: Integration: Coming Home,Saito's Serenade,Sulawesi Sky,Inspiration
Blues,From the Heart,Integration,Poinciana,What Happened,Funky
Integration II: taking Burung-Narzi's Place,The Sweet One,Smooth
Ride,French Island Fantasy,Afro-Asian Chant,Ipoh Girl,Fine Aussie
Weathered,Ocean Blues,Takong Burung-Narzi's Place refrain,The Hunny
Personnel: Greg Chako, guitars; Mike Stanton, piano; Greg Lyons, alto and tenor sax;
Christy Smith, bass; Edmond Branson, drums.