Chuck Mangione - flugelhorn, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Gerry Niewood - saxophones, flute; Chip Jackson - electric bass; Joe LaBarbera - drums
Chuck Mangione's mellow-toned flugelhorn and engaging compositions laid the groundwork for what would later become the smooth jazz movement. Growing up in Rochester as a Dizzy Gillespie-inspired bop trumpeter, Mangione and his piano-playing brother Gap formed the Jazz Brothers and recorded three straight ahead albums for the Riverside label in the early '60s. In 1966, Mangione played alongside pianist Keith Jarrett in an edition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and by 1970, while serving as a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music, he collaborated with the Rochester Philharmonic on his first orchestral outing, the live Friends and Love, which introduced his popular tune "Hill Where the Lord Hides." He scored a similar success with 1973's orchestral Land of Make Believe, featuring the Hamilton Philharmonic of Ontario, Canada, and introducing vocalist Esther Satterfield. At the time of this Newport Jazz Festival performance at Avery Fisher Hall, Mangione was riding high on the success of 1975's Chase the Clouds Away, his debut on A&M and the album that pointed to a distinctly softer direction from his previous bop flavored stylings.
By this time, Mangione had shifted exclusively to flugelhorn to get a warmer tone to suit his new mellower music. And he carried with him a crew of bassist Chip Jackson, drummer Joe LaBarbera, and saxophonist-flutist Gerry Niewood. Together they showered the packed house at Avery Fisher Hall with engaging material from Chase the Clouds Away. Mangione's quartet opens with the Latin flavored "Enchano," which seems to take its lead from Chick Corea's 1972 classic Light as a Feather. Following a rubato intro with Mangione offering chiming electric piano strains underneath Niewood's mellow flute, drummer LaBarbera kicks off a super-charged Latin groove that serves as a launching pad for potent solos by Niewood on soprano sax and Mangione on flugelhorn. The two also establish their tight frontline chemistry on this energized opener. LaBarbera also gets in a whirlwind solo near the end of this spirited number. Shifting modes, they next come out with the earthy, loping funk of "Can't We Do This All Night," a Crusaders styled number which has Niewood blowing blustery tenor sax lines and Mangione alternating between flugelhorn and Fender Rhodes.
Mangione's "Sunshower" has the leader playing wah-wah-laden Fender Rhodes accompaniment as Niewood carries the buoyant melody on flute before picking up his tenor sax and wailing with gusto on an extended solo. Jackson also delivers a rocking solo here on electric bass. Their rendition of the relaxing "Chase the Clouds Away," with Niewood on flute and Mangione on Rhodes, offers some calm after the storm of "Sunshower." "Song of the New Moon" is a more turbulent offering, with Mangione again on electric piano on the intro before shifting to flugelhorn and delivering the melody on top of the driving rhythm. Niewood's soprano sax blends beautifully with Mangione's flugelhorn here on their intricate harmony lines as LaBarbera and Jackson groove mightily underneath. This tune also presents some of the most urgent soloing by these talented horn players during their set at Avery Fisher Hall. Niewood's soprano sax solo seems particularly inspired while Mangione leaps into the stratosphere with some high register bravura playing of his own. The conclude their set in serene fashion with the atmospheric and aptly-named "Soft," a piece that seems clearly influenced by Eric Satie's restful "Gymnopedie, No. 1." Niewood is featured on this mellow offering on alto flute.
Following up on the success of Chase the Clouds Away, Mangione would score an even greater success with 1977's Feels So Good, which some consider to have jump-started the whole smooth jazz movement.
Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Mangione came up emulating trumpeter and bop pioneer Dizzy Gillespie. Following a stint from 1958 to 1963 at the Eastman School of Music, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, following in the great trumpet legacy of Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Bill Hardman, and Lee Morgan who played in that band. After recording a string of straight ahead albums in the '60s, he switched to a more commercial direction in the 1970s with a series of albums that served as a precursor of the smooth jazz trends of the future.
Throughout the 1970s, Chuck Mangione was a celebrity. His purposely lightweight music was melodic pop that was upbeat, optimistic, and sometimes uplifting. Mangione's records were big sellers yet few of his fans from the era knew that his original goal was to be a bebopper. His father had often taken Chuck and his older brother Gap (a keyboardist) out to see jazz concerts, and Dizzy Gillespie was a family friend. While Chuck studied at the Eastman School, the two Mangiones co-led a bop quintet called the Jazz Brothers who recorded several albums for Jazzland, often with Sal Nistico on tenor. Chuck Mangione played with the big bands of Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson (both in 1965) and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1965-1967). In 1968, now sticking mostly to his soft-toned flügelhorn, Mangione formed a quartet that also featured Gerry Niewood on tenor and soprano. They cut a fine set for Mercury in 1972, but otherwise Mangione's recordings in the '70s generally used large orchestras and vocalists (including Esther Satterfield), putting the emphasis on lightweight melodies such as "Hill Where the Lord Hides," "Land of Make Believe," "Chase the Clouds Away," and the huge 1977 hit (featuring guitarist Grant Geissman) "Feels So Good." After a recorded 1978 Hollywood Bowl concert that summed up his pop years and a 1980 two-LP set that alternated pop and bop (with guest Dizzy Gillespie), Mangione gradually faded out of the music scene.
During the '80s, he recorded for the Columbia label and after a period of inactivity during the '90s he made a reunion with his Feels So Good band in 1997. His most recent recordings were 1999's The Feeling's Back and 2000's Everything for Love, both for the Chesky label. In recent years, Mangione has had a recurring voice-acting role on the animated television series King of the Hill. (Milkowski)