Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chase - Ennea (1972)

I was going to wait a bit longer to post this, but as some may have noticed if you visited yesterday my other post was deleted. Chase is a favorite of mine, and while their final album is undoubtedly my favorite, Ennea is much more like Pure Music than their first album. The Greek translation of "nine," Ennea is named for the nine members of Chase and the Greek Suite which would have originally been on one side of the LP. Ennea sees Bill Chase and his band breakaway from the norms of jazz-rock and move into a more original sound incorporating elements of funk and even Middle Eastern music. Addressing the music aside from the suite, "So Many People" is the standout track and was the single when the album was released in 1972. Unfortunately, it did not chart as well as expected, so Chase wasn't in the limelight as much as when his first album took off. "I Can Feel It" and "It Won't Be Long" are also memorable tracks that primarily feature G.G. Shinn, the vocalist of the band at the time, along with solo breaks reminding the listener how much command of the upper register Bill Chase had. "Swanee River" is a real oddity of a track. Apparently, Bill Chase was working on an original composition when G.G. Shinn noted that it had the same chord changes as "Swanee River," so the original tune was scrapped and this was the result. However, the real treasure of the album is definitely the suite. Part of the reason this album didn't sell well is because of the suite, because it isn't that accessible to the untrained listener. The Greek Suite is hands down the least commercial music Chase ever released. Even though there are vocals, it's pretty obvious from the opening cadenza of "Cronus" that the real focus is Bill Chase and the trumpet section. There are a variety of influences across the suite from rock, jazz, and even Middle Eastern music. In many parts of "Zeus" the track sounds more like an uptempo jazz chart than anything rock related. My personal favorite of the suite is "Aphrodite Part II" which is actually in a double harmonic scale (Bayati if you use the Middle Eastern name). Roughly, it is a major scale with lowered second and sixth degrees. Bill Chase was a critically well received arranger even before Chase when he was lead trumpet for Woody Herman, and it is the Greek suite which really exemplified this reputation. Unfortunately, it is probably one of the most skimmed-over part of his discography. I own the entire Chase discography on vinyl, and this album in particular makes me lament the end of the LP. It's not that I hate new formats, but the liner artwork in the album is particularly intriguing and it is the little things like that that you lose in the plastic cases they use today.