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Luis Gasca: For Those Who Chant

Peter J. Hoetjes By

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Luis Gasca: For Those Who Chant
Luis Gasca was one of the hottest trumpet players in California during the 1970s, recording a handful of albums fueled by the drugs, the culture, and the excitement of that time and place. Though they all featured large ensembles, only one of them allowed some of the era's most legendary musicians to blur the lines separating jazz, latin, and rock and roll.

"Everyone should have two favorite cities; their own and San Francisco," claimed Gasca. It was there, at the now-defunct Columbia Studios, that For Those Who Chant was recorded. Which makes sense, given the history of its contributors. Along with Gasca himself was a young George Cables, who spent most of the seventies on the west coast, building a reputation as a reliable, inventive pianist for numerous frontmen. This included saxophonist Joe Henderson, who had a large footprint on this album. Carlos Santana was joined by Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie; both would leave his band a year later to form Journey, eventually dedicating their first hit song "Lights" to the city by the bay.

Just in case that didn't ramp expectations into the stratosphere, the menagerie of talent on flute, percussion, timbales, congas, and drums were rounded out by Grammy-winning bassist Stanley Clarke.

For Those Who Chant wears its excesses well, pitting the 'cool' sounds of the west coast against the technical prowess of its lineup. Even at an immodest eleven minutes in length, "Street Dude" is served up as an appetizer for the album. It's there to ease listeners into the experience. Not that Gasca wastes any time setting the moo—the trumpeter charges out unrestrained over what could easily pass for vintage Santana. He closes the song by making good on the title's premise, with tribal chanting and chattering sweeping it into a fade out.

Tense percussion and piano drive the tension of "La Raza" as Henderson and Gasca blow wild lines over an increasingly chaotic setting. As that tension stretches to a breaking point, the band flips a switch and eases the rhythm back to something manageable. "Spanish Gypsy" opens with chimes and a heavy bass line from Clark. A pattering of congas fades away as the band feints into a second start, and it's most evident here how thoroughly they've managed to meld the multi-genre influences. Cables is finally given something more to do that act as an accompanist, but unfortunately doesn't have adequate time to take advantage of it. The biggest disappointment this recording delivers is that he and both guitarists serve more as ambience than soloists, but "Spanish Gypsy" is an extended enough piece to highlight their input to some degree.

The album ends with "Little Mama," a sub-six minute composition which feels a little tacked on after the bombast of its predecessor. While the tune doesn't quite have the chops one might anticipate, it serves well as a nightcap to a wild studio party; one with enough intricacy behind it to reward those who pay close enough attention to pick out the contributions of each musician.

Luis Gasca would release two more recordings after this one before disappearing completely. The excesses of the time and trade were taking their toll on both himself and his contemporaries. "I stopped (playing) because I was self destructive. I was burned out," he admitted. "That's when I knew it was time for me to go." He came to realize that in order to save the musician, he had to sacrifice the music. That which he made, both as leader and with such luminaries as Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, and Stan Kenton, are the bright remains of a very specific period. For Those Who Chant has one hell of a pedigree. The results mostly live up to the expectations that creates, offering up an effort ripe with unbridled enthusiasm.

Track Listing

Street Dude; La Raza; Spanish Gypsy; Little Mama.

Personnel

Luis Gasca: trumpet; Coke Escovedo: percussion; Joe Henderson: saxophone, tenor; Stanley Clarke: bass; Lenny White: drums; Carlos Santana: guitar; Hadley Caliman: saxophone; Neal Schon: guitar; Mike Shrieve: drums; Richard Kermode: organ, Hammond B3; George Cables: piano; Gregg Rolie: keyboards; Mark Levine: piano; Snooky Flowers: percussion; Rico Reyes: percussion; Joanna MacGregor: percussion; Garnette Mims: percussion; Mike Carabello: percussion; Victor Pantoja: percussion; Carmelo Garcia: percussion.

Album information

Title: For Those Who Chant | Year Released: 1972 | Record Label: Blue Thumb Records

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