Chuck Mangione - flugel horn, keyboards; James Bradley Jr - drums; Chris Vadala - reeds, flute, percussion, keyboards; Grant Giesmann - guitar; Charles Meeks - bass
In the mid-1970s, Chuck Mangione was arguably the most popular jazz musician in America. With the hit single, "Feels So Good," he had scored the first major Top 40 pop hit from a jazz recording since Dave Brubeck's "Take 5," and helped launch what would become the "smooth jazz" genre.
During this period, Mangione (and his brother, keyboardist Gap Mangione), had received the full promotional and financial backing of their label, A&M Records, in the same way that the label had gotten behind acts such as Peter Frampton, the Carpenters, and Cat Stevens. During this period and shortly thereafter, Chuck Mangione was selling out venues as prestigious as the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.
This show, recorded in 1977 for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, features Mangione and his quintet when his star was at its commercial apex. Opening with "The Hill Where The Lord Hides," and going through a full roster of his most popular compositions, Mangione proves here why America had embraced his music and musicianship in such an overwhelming fashion.
There is not a clunker here, and unlike many jazz musicians Mangione refrains from a lot of excessive solos, keeping the music focused on the core melodies of each song. "Chase The Clouds Away," "The Day After (Our First Night Together)," and "Legend Of The One-Eyed Sailor" all clock in at lengths ranging from 10 to 15 minutes each. Still, the show never gets boring, due to Mangione's well-structured arrangements.
He plays his signature hit, "Feels So Good," in the middle of the set, before doing memorable versions of "Hide and Seek" and "Bellavia," written for and about the 40-year marriage of his Italian-American parents. He closes with a combination of "Land Of Make Believe" and "Main Squeeze," both great examples of contemporary jazz.
Mangione, along with his brother Gap, emerged from the culturally rich town of Rochester, NY, home of the Eastman School of Music. After graduating from Eastman, Mangione became a staple on the national jazz scene, with a powerful quartet that included saxophonist Gerry Niewood (a future member of Dave Brubeck's Quartet); bassist Tony Levin (later a mainstay with both King Crimson and Peter Gabriel); and drummer Steve Gadd (arguably one of the best drummers in the world today and the main drummer for both Eric Clapton and James Taylor). After signing with A&M, who took a big chance getting behind a jazz artist trying to release pop records, his career took off with the success of "Feels So Good" in 1977.