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JGT Album Review: Greg Chako’s “Friends Old And New”



Jazz Guitar Today guest contributor Vince Lewis reviews Greg Chako’s reissued release, “Friends Old And New”

Guitarist Greg Chako has certainly led an interesting and unique musical journey.  I first became aware of Greg several years ago while writing CD reviews for another Jazz Guitar Publication.  I was immediately struck by his versatility and obvious dedication to his craft.  Chako was living in Singapore at the time and leading a trio on a steady hotel gig.

After a return to graduate school and continuing to hone his skills as a player, composer, and arranger, Chako has a new label, new music, and an opportunity to expose more of the musical community to his talent.  Mint 400 Records is not only reissuing his original recordings but also releasing this CD of all new material to the Jazz Guitar audience.  

The musicians performing with Chako on various tracks are Brooks Giles (Tenor and Soprano Sax), Wayne Yeager (Keyboard), Mason Daugherty (Bass), Lee McKinney (Drums), Kaleb James (Vocals), Albina Anneken (Vocals), Ted Wilburn (Percussion) and Patsy Meyer (Percussion).  Some are long-time friends and associates, and others known for less than a year.  It was an interesting journey for him to put together a group of fine players after the worst of the pandemic to record with, and each of these musicians obviously contributes their most heartfelt effort to the project.

This album is comprised of all Chako original material.   The mood is set with the opening strains of “Organomics”, a swinging tune moving through interesting chord changes evoking memories of the fun and traditional organ, guitar, and drum trios of years past.  Yeager fills the role of the classic B3 player perfectly, and his rhythmic punches perfectly complement Chako’s solid improvised lines.  “Spring Rain” is a solid Bossa Nova with tight vocal harmonies and a very catchy melody.  “Bent Metal – A Tribute To A Green Trucker” is up next, and an deals with an interesting theme that helped with its creation. Chako was trained as a commercial truck driver for a time, and several of the selections in this CD were written thematically to reflect that time period of his life.

Four of the included songs were actually written in 2008 when Chako was living in Japan.  “Walk With Me”, “The Whole Truth” and “Samba Summer” are part of that effort.  Each of Chako’s compositions is well crafted and solid musically.  His harmonic progressions are logical but fresh and unique, and an excellent example of combining the traditional with forward-thinking music.

Greg Chako is a fine player with a voice that should be heard by a much larger listening audience.  His music is a crossover from the influence of The Great American Songbook to a truly pleasurable experience of interesting and unique material.

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