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Take Five With...

Take Five With Greg Chako

By Published: February 7, 2007
If I really were stranded on a desert island, CDs would be the last thing Id think about. Give me my Golden Retriever and a good knife! OK, well... maybe Coltranes Afro Blue or Transition, Art Farmer/Pepper Adams with Herbie Hancock, Out of This World, Gnu High - Kenny Wheeler with Keith Jarrett, Art Blakey's Live at Birdland 1963, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. Alternatively, some James Brown, Graham Central Station, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dinah Washington and some Jimi Hendrix! Geez what a question!

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Wow! From a question about (only five) desert island picks to something as serious as this...

Thats a tough one. Let me say this: Jazz is alive and well. With the exception of some great pop/rock/folk/blues music (in the minority for sure), and some classical-romantic music from the late 1800s, jazz is the most expressive and evocative music on earth. Its evolving and changing like everything else, so perhaps, some older traditional definitions may become obsolete as more and more unifying and mixing of styles/cultures occur. There are a multitude of negative things to observe, if one chooses to focus on the negative.

However, jazz can best be served by focusing on the positive - so I say, keep swinging and grooving and listening to the masters to learn from.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Its like the joke about Real Estate - whats important? 1. Location 2. Location 3. Location.

For jazz I suppose its 1. Listen. 2. Listen 3. Listen. For musicians, respect the traditions, the masters, study and learn how to play, but most of all - think about developing your own voice/style, even if it may not seem profitable at first. For the general public - be more open minded! Go out to more live jazz shows. Find out what local and independent musicians are doing and support them however you can. Dont accept the brainwashing music some major media outlets are pushing - tell yourself you want to look for music that moves you and makes you think, that stimulates the brain and body, not numbs it. Go your own way, seek alternatives to the numbing, mindless, music by formula trash that pervades much of todays scene.

What is in the near future? I am focused on finishing my eighth CD. I just returned from Singapore where I began recording my eighth CD, titled Paint a Picture, Tell a Story.

It will contain six Chako original compositions, and feature Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone and Don Byron on sax and bass clarinet, with a rhythm section of Christy Smith on bass, Greg Lyons on sax, and Mark DeRose on drums. Besides the six Chako originals, there will be two trio tracks and two quartet tracks (four non-originals). I am very excited about this - look for more news as and when things develop further.

Once that is done, I will look forward to another recording project in the States, either in LA or NYC. That ninth CD project will be mostly trio music, including both standards and originals, and involving all major "name" players. In the meantime, I am busy trying to make a living to afford the recording Im doing, teaching and playing, trying to boost my reputation both internationally and in Japan locally. Then, theres housecleaning...

By Day: I am teaching English in Japan for Berlitz, the worlds leading language school. At first I took the job out of (financial) desperation, not expecting to really enjoy it. But, in fact, I do. I enjoy the students I teach, and end up learning quite a bit from them in the process of helping them with their English. Also, they are quite interested in my music and tend to come to the clubs where I play here, which is an added bonus. However, as my music career here has grown significantly in the past year or so, I have, as of July 2006, changed my teaching job to a part time one, so that now I can be more flexible with my schedule for gigs and recordings.

Now, every day, I am either playing a music job, or teaching - no day off!

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