November 2007

Greg Chako - Paint a Picture, Tell a Story…
Chako Productions Pte Ltd – CD 88-8
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

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

American jazz guitarist Greg Chako has been living and working in Asia since 1992, which might explain why he’s not better known here in the US. The three musicians who round out his quartet are also westerners based in Asia. Drummer Mark DeRose and bassist Christy Smith are from the US, and sax player Greg Lyons is from England. Chako must be respected among musicians, since two prominent players, Don Byron and Delfeayo Marsalis, are guests on six of the ten tracks on his new disc, Paint a Picture, Tell a Story…. Chako is a gifted composer and improviser whose attack on the guitar is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery’s -- not surprisingly, since Chako also uses his thumb rather than a plectrum, just as Montgomery did.

Chako doesn’t copy Montgomery, although he shares the latter’s impressive command of the guitar. Chako’s single-note and chord-based solos are emotionally rewarding and clearly developed, true to the title of the disc. His melodic tunes are richly complex, and his formidable command of the fingerboard allows him to present his musicians with harmonically challenging foundations. They respond with intelligent, sensitive performances. Byron’s bass clarinet on "Murtabop" and "What da Funk!" mesh nicely with Chako’s warm, fluid tone, as does Marsalis’s bluesy trombone throughout the disc. Lyons, a highly inventive player, holds his own with the more famous guests, and the rhythm section is responsive and fluid throughout.

Paint a Picture, Tell a Story… was recorded in Singapore by John Herbert at Lion Studios, "The warm home of analogue sound in Singapore." While I might wish for slightly more forward sonics, the instruments are cleanly separated and presented without artifice. Indeed, the disc’s space and atmosphere won me over quickly.

Greg Chako is a world-class player, and I hope to check out more of his extensive discography.