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Take Five With Greg Chako

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Greg Chako: USA born, Greg distinguished himself early on as an exceptional guitarist by placing second in the American Guild of Music Competition at age 11. After receiving formal education at Berklee Collage of Music in Boston, he began performing and promoting jazz, including appearances with leading artists.

He has overcome many obstacles in life, like a physical disability of the wrist called carpal-tunnel syndrome, divorce, and the sudden death of his second wife due to breast cancer. He now resides in Yokohama, Japan. He has lived in four Asian countries, and has made a professional living as a chef, a salesman, businessman and musician, and these varied life experiences have enriched and deepened his music.

In Singapore, Greg has led the house jazz band at the world-famous Raffles Hotel for six years. Hes recorded seven CDs, four videos, been the subject of a documentary movie, appeared on television, and at jazz festivals with his Latin-Jazz-World fusion groups.

Reaching new heights as a composer, Gregs fourth, fifth and sixth CDs feature 30 original compositions, taking the listener on a cross-cultural jazz journey encompassing a unique mix of Latin rhythms, hard-swinging jazz, and the exotic sounds of Indian tabla, Australian didgeridoo, and Brazilian surdo drum.

Playing with only his thumb, Greg creates a warm, percussive tone. His CDs are described as, "Pure Magic," "Impeccable," "Swinging and Melodic"; his lines, "Clear and Uncluttered," "Incisive and Inventive". With his original music, he creates a new style, and makes, music that transcends geographic boundaries and communicates the happiness and friendship that all music should provide!

Instrument: guitar.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... Before I even realized I wanted to be.... As a baby I used to bang out rhythms hearing the music my parents played on the stereo at home. In Middle School I played drums on my text books. In High School I copied music from records and played in amateur rock bands. The first jazz album I heard was Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis. I loved that, but didnt realize that was jazz! Dont recall any specific defining moment - I guess I can say...as early as I can remember!

Your sound and approach to music: The liner notes of my newest CD release, Paint a Picture, Tell a Story, may best sum this question up:

The title of this CD is inspired by my approach to the guitar and music, and it echoes the kinds of comments I have gotten from other musicians about my playing. I have been told over the years, on more than one occasion, you paint a picture, or, your solo tells a story, and each time I hear that about a solo, I know its a good one, and I take heart that my musical goal may have been achieved. I contrast that kind of comment with, nice lick! or, you have amazing technique! For while most players are pleased to know their technique is admired, the more important aspect of ones playing is, do you say anything! Do you have a style that is significant and your own? This is what I aspire to.

Each time I put together a CD, I think long and hard about making a unique statement, which tunes to include, in what order to present them, who the members are to be, etc. I have always done this, but I hope this CD in particular exemplifies that ideal, and satisfactorily displays the culmination of my recording, composing and playing experience.

I hope for you, the listener, it paints a picture, or tells a story...

Your teaching approach: Give them everything! Tell them everything (at the right time). Your passion for the music is infectious.

Your dream band: That's a little hard to say, but I think a dream band must like a dream family - people who know what to expect of one another, love each other despite their differences, and manage to make the most of their time together, communicating effectively with a common goal. There are so many talented musicians! So, sometimes the personal relationship can make a difference, because, if the band is really digging each other and feeling good, then its more likely that positive feeling will come out in the music. One thing I can say is this - I love drummers and rhythm, so my dream band will have many drummers and percussionists.

Anecdote from the road: There are so many, but let me use a "safe" one, from the song description of one of the original tunes (called "Hurry Up and Wait") from my newest CD:

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