Chuck Mangione - Flugelhorn
Steve Gadd - Drums
Joe Romano - Saxophones
Gap Mangione - Piano
Frank Pullara - Bass
Between Races *
Here's That Rainy Day
High Heel Sneakers
Struttin' With Sandra *
Feels So Good Records FSG 9002
* Written by Chuck Mangione
What goes around, comes around - only better than ever.
That's the lesson with music performed by
artists who've continued to grow, who've continued to love what they do, and
who've continued to respect each other.
That's the lesson in "The Boys from Rochester".
Organized by Chuck Mangione, "The Boys from Rochester" was a
one-time event, a geographic and musical homecoming for five of Upstate New
York's best known musicians, a group of guys who once played together, and
who've remained friends and cohorts in various ensembles over the years.
Long before Chuck Mangione made the world "Feel So
Good", before Steve Gadd became EVERYBODY'S favorite session drummer, before Chuck's piano-playing brother,
Gap, made his series of A&M albums in the 70's, or before saxophonist Joe
Romano and bassist Frank Pullara developed stellar reps in several big and small
bands, they were "The Boys from Rochester".
It was the mid-sixties and though it wasn't Chuck Mangione's first band, it was one of the first, and it helped spread the reputations of all five members
through the region.
A few months ago. in the wake of enthusiasm for Chuck
and Gap's reunion of their other early band, The Jazz Brothers, Chuck got The Boys together.
"This performance by The Boys from Rochester was an
event that just happened," Chuck says.
"Everybody was in town so we said, 'Lets get
together.' We didn't plan to record it. It was a chance to get together five people who made music together a long
time ago and who happened to be living in the same place.
"So, they performed with vigor and joy before a
few hundred fortunate invitees at The Lodge at Woodcliff, a classy Rochester venue and what you're hearing is the result.
Despite Chuck's original plan, a recording was made, only for personal use.
But when the music vibes were so strong, and the recording was fortunately also fine, the feeling was
- let's release it.
Purists will like and admire the fact that this eventful
live session was recorded directly to a two track recorder - which means it couldn't be mixed (or
sweetened) after the fact. What you're hearing here is what
we who were fortunate enough to be in the room heard that special night.
"I think you can lose the essence of what's going on
if you get too sophisticated," Chuck says. "The groove can go right out the window if you mess with it too
For repertoire, The Boys also went back to the roots,
largely playing jazz and ballad standards like "Oleo", "Autumn Leaves", "The Anniversary Waltz", Dizzy Gillespie's "Here
'tis", and "Here's that Rainy Day". If you're
looking for the more familiar and very popular compositions of Chuck
Mangione, this ain't the place. (They can be found, however, in up-to-the-minute live digital versions on "Live at the
Village Gate", also on the Feels So Good label.)
Early Mangione compositions are in evidence, however, making this a collectible for Chuck's fans.
The Boys From Rochester perform his very first composition,
"Struttin' with Sandra", which was written for a high-school sweetheart; and
"Between Races", a tune that Chuck says was inspired by trips to local race tracks that Joe
Romano and he used to take when they'd skip out of music classes they taught in Upstate
New York schools.
Finally - and foremost - "The Boys from Rochester" is about fresh, invigorating,
playful and highly musical jazz performances.
Listen, for example, to the way Chuck builds his
flugelhorn solo, and the texture of the whole tune, in "Autumn Leaves" or the way he thanks his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, with a soft, tantalizing musical kiss in his gentle, swinging solo in "Here
Or how about the versatility of Joe Romano, who nearly blows the
ceiling off the bandstand on "Oleo" and "High Heel Sneakers", but who displays a remarkable sensitivity as a balladeer on "Here's that Rainy
Day"? It isn't every saxophonist who can make his own statement, but also generate echoes of Trane and Dexter Gordon in the same set.
And though I've enjoyed the piano-playing of Gap Mangione for several years,
his ability with a blues riff in "High Heel Sneakers" and "Here 'tis", his sense of harmonics and dynamics in "Here's that Rainy Day", his supportive comping, and his inventive solos are still most impressive.
And how 'bout that rhythm section. Frank Pullara is a bassist of impeccable timing yet notably melodic and is always wonderfully supportive.
Listen to his lovely musical dance with Chuck on the lyrical reading of
"Anniversary Waltz" or his graceful support of Joe Romano in "Here's that Rainy Day".
And Steve Gadd is, of course, Steve Gadd. Singer Sheena Easton told me once that the boys in her band refer to him as "Steve God".
From Paul Simon to Charles Mingus, from Paul McCartney to Frank Sinatra,
Steve Gadd has left his mark on the world recording scene.
Here he's alternately restrained and explosive, and always remarkably creative.
He's guaranteed to generate the desired rhythm, be it rock-steady or free-swingin'.
(One special moment requires explanation: Steve's quiet, tinkling solo in
"High Heel Sneakers" was played on glassware, ashtrays and silverware gathered by Chuck from stage side tables just for Steve's rhythmic perusal.
When you're as inventive as Steve Gadd sometimes drums just aren't enough.)
Throughout the two sets, Chuck Mangione plays with inspired feeling and great taste.
While much of his contemporary musical output puts the spotlight on his skills as a composer and arranger, "The Boys from Rochester" is a chance to enjoy Chuck
Mangione, the player. And he's seldom - if ever - sounded better.
"The Boys from Rochester" is the second album on Chuck's own
Feel's So Good label, and catches the artist at a point in his career when he's charting new territory for himself.
And he's discovered that artists sometimes find their future by checking out their past.
"Sometimes, breaking new ground is looking back to where you
were," Chuck says. "And as a result, I'm looking at today as a
positive time, and I'm going to let what happens next happen
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