Sunday, September 7, 2008

Angel Blue Review Bob Miles

Angel Blue Review
Written for Jazz Improvisation Magazine by Bob Miles

Chuck Anderson is certainly no stranger to the Philadelphia music scene. In the seventies, Chuck's first release "Mirror Within a Mirror" was an extremely popular album that featured the late Al Stauffer on Bass and Ray Deeley on drums. Angel Blue is Chuck's second jazz release after so many years. Why the extended absence? Chuck explains it this way: "I left the jazz field in 1978 to explore the art of Neo Classical Guitar. It was during this period that I began to focus on composition and ultimately made my way back to jazz."

Chuck Anderson is an impressive guitar force with boundless chops and interesting, unpredictable ideas.

Angel Blue features an eclectic collection of jazz styles. Chuck has decided to take "A Tour of Jazz" rather than focus on one particular style. Having several Philadelphia "heavy weights" including Gerald Veasley on Bass and John Swana on Trumpet certainly propels this tour along the jazz topography.

All but the Eleanor Rigby Medley are Chuck's compositions. The opening selection, Aqua Blue, is a melodious piece which features guitar, trumpet, sax and piano trading solos. Chuck opens with a relaxed solo with a very warm tone. Later, Swana skillfully shows his aural talents by repeating the five end notes of Kleiman's piano solo to start his solo.

Soft Breezes is a Bossa Nova, which opens with Chuck comping on a nylon 6 string.
Solos are rhythmically charged between Chuck and Dan Kleiman on piano and are reminiscent of Stan Getz's solo with Chick Corea on the Windows album. As the song progresses, it starts to build momentum as Veasley solos on his electric bass. Soft Breezes then concludes nicely to an all out samba.

The title track, Angel Blue is a ballad where Swana plays the melody with a muted trumpet reminiscent of Miles "Kind of Blue". The sensitivity with which they handle this ballad is top shelf. Swana lights a few sparks while Chuck fans the sparks into flame.
Chuck uses a subtle touch while settling in behind the beat.

Pirouette enters with Chuck's free style blowing gradually building into a modal setting. His solos center on Veasley's repetitive bass note pattern. Chuck's use of open strings and fourths effectively sets a dark tonality for which he is well known.

The next stop along the Tour of Jazz is Chuck's jazz/funk composition "Street Strut". Street Strut is what you would expect of a seventies style fusion piece ala Stern or Brecker. His solo would have been better enhanced with distortion as the notes and feel are certainly there. Chuck is right at home with a funky style which I find hard to say for other guitarists who have his technical facility. The funk kicks into high gear with Kerber's solo. Of course, Veasley's incredible chops add the final punch.

Flying Free is a contemporary jazz piece suitable for the smooth jazz audience. Should Chuck decide to expand into the smooth jazz market, I am confident that he would become an instant success. Chuck does open up as the song fades.

Danielle is Chuck's second ballad. This is nicely shared between Chuck, Dan Kleiman on piano and Ron Kerber on tenor. The solos are slowly drawn, relaxed and hold a nice sense of calmness throughout. Again, Chuck reinstates his interesting lines with a warm, almost silky tonality.

VSQ makes a return from Chuck's first release, "Mirror Within a Mirror". This nicely features a quirky melody injected between solos. The energy is high with Ronnie Barrage adding a feverish drum solo. Chuck again draws upon that dark tonal quality combined with an extraordinary display of confidence in his solos.

Eleanor Rigby melody opens to a solo melody and chord style with Chuck using parallel fourths and contrary motion for much of the melody. Gerald Veasley again supports Chuck with a mega- chops solo. Veasley's frequent use of fifths during Chuck's solo is a nice touch.

Dance of the Algons is the final track and is free form featuring mostly Kerber, Anderson and Kleiman. Chuck's six note motif is often heard underlying the solos throughout.

Chuck's compositions are outstanding at both a harmonic and melodic level. They remain interesting throughout the entire CD. Chuck solos hold because of their sheer musicality.

Chuck Anderson does accomplish what he set out to accomplish. Each track nicely and authentically covers the various styles from Bossa Nova to Smooth Jazz and in - between. It's great to hear that Chuck has made his much anticipated return with such highly regarded players in this art form.

I recommend Angel Blue to jazz educators who want to introduce their students to the various forms of jazz. I also recommend Angel Blue to those who just want to have a great listening experience!

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