Guitarist Greg Chako has led quite an interesting life. In addition to being a musician and composer, Chako has been a business entrepreneur both within and outside of the music industry. His life experience has led him to travel widely and explore different cultures.
After three years of study at the Berklee School of Music, he moved to New York. Taking jobs in restaurant kitchens, Chako discovered that he had expertise in food preparation, and later, he found that he had a real talent in jazz music promotion for festivals and live concerts. Chako returned to his native Cincinnati, where he taught music, led a band and acted as a booking agent.
Relocating to New York again, Chako found his musical career on hold due to carpal tunnel syndrome. His travels took him to Hong Kong, where he married an Asian woman whose suggestion of Tai Chi worked to ameliorate the wrist problem. In 1994, Chako moved again to Singapore, and with a steady musical job there, he widened his musical and entrepreneurial status by forming and operating Chako Productions. This organization offered a wide variety of entertainment promotion and production services.
The guitarist has also recorded five albums. On the early ones, he worked with a repertoire of standards and jazz standards. Later, with Integration (2000) and Integration II (2001), he decided to emphasise his own compositions. Where We Find Ourselves is his most ambitious work yet, with two discs and all original compositions.
On several of these pieces, Chako has taken the melody and chord structure of existing songs and altered them so that a new composition emerges. The most obvious of these is his beautiful ballad "Takachan" and the reference to Johnny Mandel's "Emily," which it greatly resembles. On "It's Only You," an attractive bop tune featuring Pat Halleran's trombone, the original source material was the Jule Styne "It's You Or No One." LIkewise the pleasant opening tune, "Voyage Down," is based upon Steve Swallow's "Eiderdown"; and "Love Goes Forth" was originally Cole Porter's "Love For Sale."
There are, however, many original tunes here that aren't built around previous musical references. On both "Winter Solstice" and "You Of All," bass clarinetist Robbie Belgrade explores some dissonance on the instrument during some avant-garde blowing. There are two bossa nova melodies, including "Wave of Love" and "Creators of Life," a vocal piece by Kaleb James. James also sings on the title tune, with original lyrics by Chako that reflect both his wife's illness (she died from cancer) as well as the period afterwards.
Although the ensemble is quite good and it negotiates these tunes as if they were in some existing jazz standard songbook, the most interesting musical aspect of the album is Chako's guitar. Each of his solos is lyrical and well worth waiting for. Greg Chako is a significant player who writes attractive music, and it would be interesting to see him venture back to some of his older material on his next album.
Personnel: Greg Chako: guitar; Mark Tourian: bass; Mark DeRose: drums, percussion, congas, bongo;
Andy Bevan:tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, didgeridu; Robbie Belgrade, bass clarinet,
pandeiro, tabla, percussion.