December 1999

Chuck Mangione - The Feeling's Back
Chesky CD 184
Released: 1999

by Srajan Ebaen

Musical Performance *1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Flügelhorn maestro Chuck Mangione’s brand-new Chesky release sports track titles like "Maracangalha" by Dorival Caymmi and "Fotografia" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Hence it appears to delve right into the pounding heart of one of the world’s most potent and prolific musical Meccas -- Brazil. Those who equate Brazil with evasive and complex rhythms or Carnival-in-Rio bacchanal tend to overlook a more romantic, slower-paced scene, one which in terms of emotional intensity and potential consequences is equally sweaty and by no means sedate. Recall the bossa nova of Stan Gets-it? The Chesky brothers are no strangers to those southern shores of the Ipanema girl, having brought the fabulous Brazilian jazz vocalist Ana Caram to American prominence. On the instrumental side, their Orquesta Nova release Salon New York featured some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful ballads conceivable. Now the winged horn of Chuck Mangione -- flügel is German for wings -- cruises at a relaxed altitude over terrain neighboring those cited Chesky releases.

Thematically and in terms of delivery, much of the easy-listening smoothness of The Feeling’s Back veers dangerously close -- too close -- to the beach where the waters are shallow and combers are more pose than substance. But people-watching on a beach might remain interesting enough for those who appreciate details like instrumentation, execution and style. Granted, the vapid stupor that usually follows such accessibility like a sick shadow does not make an actual appearance here. But in this listener’s notebook, a definite reservation for this dreaded guest seems, in fact, to have been made. What underscores this notion of empty calories in plain view of a full table is primarily Mangione’s dry delivery itself. This reminds me of certain comics that tell jokes in such a casual manner that the intended emotional reaction gets shortchanged even though the punch line was delivered intact.

There’s nothing amiss here except an emotional distance earlier described as cruising at a relaxed altitude. Cruising itself implies being free of effort. That can be good in a Taoist sort of way, but in music sometimes it equates to a loss of tension and thus intensity. Altitude means distance, remaining a bit aloof, avoiding involvement. A whole genre of cool jazz evolved around a similar set of parameters, one that could leave a listener, well, cool or become, in the right hands, a terrifically moody, cigarette-smoke kind of blue affair.

At the end of Chuck Mangione’s album, I felt as though I had missed something. It took me a few minutes of reflection. Then it hit me right between the eyes. Of course. It’s the title: The Feeling’s Back. In movies, a well-written and spot-on-delivered scene shows you what’s going on. It doesn’t have to be talked about or explained. In this aural tale, the flügelhorn talks about feelings with notes and in words in the title, but it never directly communicates the actual emotional charge. The love letter is delivered but it isn’t personally written -- it was dictated to a secretary who typed it up. That makes the album title misleading and leaves me, a true believer in the final veracity of printed matter, disappointed. You may well react differently, and I would hope so. One thing we certainly don’t need more of is another superbly recorded monument nobody wants to visit for lack of real scenery.