Monday, November 12, 2012

Chase - Pure Music (1974)

The last album before his death in a tragic plane accident, Pure Music shows the band moving in a very different direction than previous albums with an emphasis on instrumental rather than vocal material. The only two vocals on the album are "Run Back to Mama" and "Love is on the Way," and frankly this is some of the weaker material on the album. While Chase had used a lot of outside writers on past albums, the instrumental material on Pure Music is penned entirely by its leader. The album opens with "Weird Song #1," a tune based on a groove in 9/4 with various superimpositions. By 1974 Chase had more fully embraced electronic aspects in his music, which "Weird Song #1" is a great example. In addition to featuring a Chase "electric trumpet" solo (that's how it's credited on the album), the track also has an other-wordly synth solo by new band member Wally Yohn. "Run Back to Mama" was written by Chase and Jim Peterik, the vocalist of Ides of March fame ("Vehicle") brought in by the label who was never a full-time member of the group. This track is a very straight-ahead tune with a driving bass line and the cascading trumpet lines Chase was known for. "Twinkles" is an unusual track on the album, as it was not common that Chase had ballads on his albums, let alone those that were acoustic. "Twinkles" shows Chase's ability on the flugelhorn and the sensitivity to lyricism that the listener wouldn't get from his typical forays in the stratosphere of the upper register of the trumpet. What's interesting about this track compared to the rest of his repertoire is that the opening of the tune features a bass ostinato upon which everything is layered; this is not so different as having a groove be the basis for a tune. "Bochawa" is a great full energy tune that is named for the soloists it features. "Bo stands for "BoReebie," a nickname for Jerry Van Blair, one of the strongest jazz soloists in the band. "Cha" stands for Chase, and "Wa" stands for Wally Yohn. What's interesting is that while this tune was used in tour before the recording of this album, its new band trumpeter Jay Sollenberger that is featured, not Jerry Van Blair. "Bochawa" has a great 12/8 funk groove that is a perfect showcase for Chase's lead playing and high note work as well as Wally Yohn's virtuosity on the organ. At the close of the tune, the listener will also hear a short solo by John Emma, a young guitarist from Illinois that showed a lot of promise as a jazz player before his life was tragically cut short by the plane crash that also killed Bill Chase, Wally Yohn, and Walter Clark. "Love Is on the Way" is another one of the commercially-oriented tunes on the band, but is the stronger one compared to "Run Back to Mama." The track starts out with a groove in the electric piano and a rhythmic accompaniment on guiro that builds to include the harmonized vocals and the famous Chase horn lines. "Close Up Tight," my personal favorite, closes the album and is a tour de force of the Chase sound and concept. This track begins with a motif that is stated in the synth and is transferred to the trumpets as it climbs two octaves to rest on Chase's high G (Concert F). However, after this motif the drums enter playing a swing rhythm on the hi-hat. This beat is slower than what might be present in a bebop tune, but what's important is that this is not a rock beat. Chase always sought to play music that was both the best of jazz and the best of rock, and "Close Up Tight" is a perfect example of this conception. In the original liner notes it reads, "'This is 1974. The music I make must be today. . . . It's got to be a reflection of the times and the world we live in, or to me it just doesn't make it.'" While it's no longer 1974, Chase's music is still in my opinion a pinnacle of the genre of jazz-rock.

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