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Gratitude for a life FILLED with MUSIC and good folks! 

My newest group, David and the HeartStrings, competed last Sunday in the Cincy Blues Challenge @Elements Eatery. We didn't win, but we had a good time as we always do when we perform together! We begin recording our first album as a unit next week, and we have a CD-release party scheduled for Aug. 14th @Caffe Vivace: https://rb.gy/unhrwp

You can see this new group perform w/our “HeartBeat” Michael Meloy Sun June 23rd: https://rb.gy/7s9hbs 

Later today (June 14th), I'm driving down to Lexington, KY to play with my brother-in-arms, Brooks Giles & his group at Creaux, a New Orleans inspired cocktail bar. Brooks & I are pictured below in Brooklyn, NY.

I celebrated my 66th birthday just two days ago (June 12th) and I am reflecting on how fortunate I am to have surrounded myself with really good people and musical projects. I can honestly say that (to me) it doesn't matter how good a player you are if you're difficult to be around . . . I want nothing to do with you if the vibe ain't right for me. All the guys (and gals) involved with all my music are really good folks and like me, they put their music AND their positive attitude (and humility) first and foremost. I won't give the best performance if I'm not feeling the best with my stage-mates. It's my hope that such positive vibes and the professional camaraderie that we share is evident in our performances . . . I've always believed that we as musicians cannot expect our audience to have fun listening to us if we aren't having the time of our lives onstage in each and every performance we give. Any audience can feel whether the band is having fun or not, and how the individual performers are feeling as they play, makes a huge impact on how the audience will feel when observing and/or listening to them. By the way, the same goes for the people I'm associated with (on my team) who aren't band members . . . the head of the label I'm on, Neil Sabatino of Mint400 Records, Joshua Deitner, the head of the Great Wave Recording studio I've been using, our photographer Joe Simon, and of course, my wife Jay! All of these people are crucial to my happiness and success. 

Another fantastic partnership I am so fortunate to enjoy is that which began as merely a teacher-student relationship, then developed and is continuing to evolve into a ever-more successful and notable musical collaboration, and that is my association with vocalist and Life Coach, Al West Jr. (pictured above at one of our recent performances). He's just launched his own new company called Ferrous Will here: https://rb.gy/ry1t6y AND we are working on Al's 2nd album, to be titled, “Hi-Fly,” which we will premier LIVE this summer on Aug. 17th @Caffe Vivace. Al's first album was released just a few months ago . . . you can see the video we made from one of our shows here: https://rb.gy/u8akvb

All of these great musical associations which inspire my gratitude and thanks began with my meeting bassists Matt Holt and Mason Daugherty and drummer Michael Meloy. Pictured on the left below are Matt and I at the drummer Philip Pauls' house just weeks before Paul passed . . . and on the right I'm pictured with my recording trio members, Mason & Michael … we just released Standard Roots, my 17th album.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention my two most loyal jazz guitar students, Max Erwine and Rick Jordan, whom I'm proud to count, like everyone else pictured herein, among my most valued friends. You can see them in the foreground of the picture below, taken during one of my weekly jazz ensembles. Teaching is a huge part of what makes me feel fulfilled and that I'm ‘giving -back’ as it were. My last blog was titled, Teaching, the Noblest of Professions, & you can read it here: https://tinyurl.com/muy5bdvr 

Pictured below from left to right are drummer Michael Meloy, photographer Joe Simon, myself, seated is Joe's wife Catalina, and on the far right is my wife Jay. Taken at our last live show @The JazzSpoon Cantina in Forest Park. FYI, I will be appearing there again June 28th with Brooks Giles: https://tinyurl.com/2dzbknha  Hope to enrich YOUR life with music as it has certainly enriched mine! 

Greg Chako, Blog Post #17, from “What's on My Mind?"”

 

Teaching, the noblest of professions. 

My mother was a career teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools and I never thought I'd follow in her footsteps as a teacher, but I did! I received my first formal teacher training more than 20 years ago, with courses such as “Effective Communication Skills,” and “The Learner-Centered Classroom,” among others, while teaching over 5,000 English lessons in Japan for Berlitz Language School. I taught private and group lessons to students ranging in age from 18-80, and “Business English” classes to groups of 6-15 students for top Japanese companies such as Hitachi, Shiseido and Nissan. My teaching evaluators at Berlitz wrote that I was, “ . . . excellent; gifted . . . With an intense interest in the personal development of his students and a great sensitivity to their individual needs and cultural background.

My very first experience as a private guitar teacher was back in the early 1970's, when I taught for the Cincinnati-based music store chain, Howard Early Music. I am a passionate life-long learner and musical artist who, after establishing a successful international career as a performer, recording artist and entrepreneur, returned to school at age 50 to achieve the academic qualifications  that would better enable me to “give back” to society by educating and inspiring others. 

I believe that I have a “teachers heart,” that is, an innate ability to build rapport with students and lead them to their highest potential. And importantly, I am cognizant of and grateful for the “two-way street” of communication which should exist between any student and teacher, as each collaborate on the learning process together. Nothing is more gratifying to me than to witness my student find their passion and exceed their initial expectations. I like to compare my teaching philosophy to the parable about teaching someone to fish so that they can eat for life, as opposed to feeding them one fish meal. I say that I want to teach you how to play, but not what to play . . . I teach you how to figure out things on your own rather than merely copying what I do without the knowledge of how I came to do what I do! I believe that the formal terminology is that I favor student-centered, constructivist teaching methods in which students are actively involved in the learning process, as opposed to being passive recipients of information that is lectured “down” to them.

For anyone interested, details of my formal teaching experience (1973-2009) can be found on pages 4 and 5 of my CV (curriculum vitae), which can be seen on the “Academics” page of my website: https://gregchako.com/academic Just scroll down the page until you see the hyperlink titled: “Greg's Academic CV

Covid came as a blessing in disguise in 2020 because I obtained an online teaching position which in turn prompted me to seriously upgrade (digitize) my teaching materials. At the same time, I composed 

a series of chord-melodies for Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced levels for popular songs such as The Birthday Song, Amazing Grace, Love Me Tender, Silent Night, etc… as well as a many jazz standards that my students said they wanted to learn. I use music notation, but augment it with chord diagrams showing where to put each finger, and if needed, finger markings on individual notes that do not have a chord diagram above them. I teach weekly at the Oxford Music Academy in Oxford near Miami University, and a few days a week privately at my home studio. Here's the notation with chord diagrams for The Star-Spangled Banner (intermediate level) and also a video link of my performing it (impromptu) as a guitar solo. Here's the video link: https://youtu.be/zg4Hinbr9Tc?si=R-lJ5qBnlixDu9Pv and here's a link to the music notation: https://gregchako.com/files/1118962/the-star-spangled-banner.pdf

In 2022, multiple students had been telling me that me they were not getting enough chance to “play” with other people. Not surprising, since even professionals like me don't feel that we play enough! I saw a need and I addressed it that same year, starting a 2-hour instrumental workshop in my home studio every Tuesday. I provided a professional drummer and bassist, amplifiers and P.A., and two or three of my best students would come and jam on whatever tunes they wanted to work on. I would coach them on comping for each other, improvisation, dynamics, phrasing, song selection, and generally how to best play with each other in a group context. I charged next to nothing, with the one condition being that they take one private lesson with me per week. If they did that, they could attend the workshop. That way, they got the theory they needed in the private lesson, along with the practical application of that theory in a real band-playing situation.

On Wed. nights I used to to teach at Guitar Center, but the success of the Tuesday night ensembles grew into the need for a second weekly group. Therefore, in Jan. of 2023, I quit Guitar Center (with adequate notice and on good terms!) and began teaching a weekly vocal ensemble on Wed. The primary vocalist who began these Wed. workshops with us (my guitar students are invited to this ensemble too) reached out to me because he had read an article that I'd written for Jazz Guitar Today (https://jazzguitartoday.com/author/gregchako/) which he said “spoke to him.” He began taking private lessons with me (piano, theory, repertoire and musicianship) and attending the weekly workshops. After a year and a ½, he released his first album, which I produced, and the student-teacher relationship turned into multiple professional collaborations. This is indeed the best possible outcome for any teacher, to witness the student turn professional and/or exceed their initial expectations! 

I am most proud of the fact that among my students are multiple professionals and semi-pros . . . some of them are working even more than me! But they are getting information from me that they likely cannot get easily and affordably from anyone else nearby. In addition to jazz guitar, my lessons have included those on electric bass, vocals, piano, theory and reading. My life is full in part because of my students and their commitment to learn. At 65 going on 66 in June, Tue. and Wed. have become my favorite days of the week because of the private lessons and ensembles I teach. My mom passed away in 2020, but perhaps she'd be proud of me . . . Lord knows I wish I'd taken more of her advice to heart a lot sooner than this! 

I've also really enjoyed writing educational or inspirational articles to help people along their path - I don't get paid for it - it's at-once a public service and a type of feel good therapy for me! Here's a link to my most recent article in JGT, titled “Networking for Success” - https://jazzguitartoday.com/2024/05/how-to-network-for-success/

Please follow me, read my articles, comment on my blog posts, come to my gigs and buy my music! All of this helps me to continue my work . . . and because:

Music is a healing art form: Learn it! Share it! Do it!

Greg Chako, Blog Post #16, from “Education & Inspiration”

Keep your eye on where you're going, but never forget where you came from! 

This post follows up the last two blogs of mine, in which I ponder and pontificate the merits of doing other peoples music as opposed to ones own, and the current state of the mass music market in America (specifically the USA, because it's totally DIFFERENT in countries like Japan, where Original music and Jazz in general is quite heralded by comparison). For better or for worse, I'm in the USA now, and my time in the Far East as a prolific composer and frequent performer of original music with stellar-quality bandmates (see some of my shows in Tokyo and Yokohama Japan to see and hear what I mean: https://youtu.be/MeoDk_YlTqA?si=cofDsrvOG-M2C7mJ) is but a fond & cherished memory! 

Having said that, I'm quite happy to announce that my 17th album is a return to my "roots' of playing standards in a guitar-led trio. Finally, when someone who expresses an interest in hiring my jazz trio for a function event and asked what we sound like, I have an accurate answer! We sound just like this: https://open.spotify.com/album/6yuukYDRShqgTSpO54380M?si=PFk6Gu45QK672NvAsIHBFw

Because, with so many of past releases of mine featuring larger ensembles that no longer exist, or All-Original music scored for 3 horns, tabla and Afro-Cuban percussion, neither of which likely represents what one will hear if a Cincinnatian hires me to play a function event at the Kenwood Country Club, I can now inform all prospective local clients as to exactly what they can expect to hear if they hire the Greg Chako Trio in the Greater Cincinnati area! YAY! So, please pick up a physical copy from me or stream it where you normally do, and if you want that kind of music for your private party or function event CONTACT ME: https://gregchako.com/contact-booking

My musical efforts are always looking ahead, imagining in my mind where I want to be in the future. But this week, I am so exciting to get nostalgic about my origins as a jazz performer in Cincinnati, Ohio, with my upcoming gig Friday May 10th with an organ trio @The Northern Row Brewery in OTR: https://gregchako.com/event/5575175/680154674/greg-chako-guitar-organ-trio

When I was a youngster just starting out, I went to Sonny's Place on Sunday afternoons to “sit in” with Hammond B-3 organist, Sonny Miles. I recall being the only White boy there, often the youngest too, and the cliental was the after-Sunday-church crowd in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. It was AWESOME! 

The Organ Trio with guitar was extremely popular in those days, and historically, seems to be a MidWestern “thing”. Later on weekend evenings, I sat in with Jimmy McGary and his band featuring Bobby Scott on drums and Wayne Yeager on B-3 organ at the old Cory's on the corner of Vine and E. McMillan in OTR. That is where I first met Bobby and Wayne, both of whom became friends of mine. We often shared a stage together too. I played with Bobby and Jim Anderson for a hot minute in their group, Cohesion, and when I began booking jazz at Doc's Place in N. College Hill, I hired Wayne as part of the “house band” there. 

 

Unfortunately, Bobby Scott passed away in 2018, but thankfully organist Wayne Yeager is still among us! Wayne recorded with me on two recent albums made in Cincinnati, Friends, Old & New https://gregchako.com/product/987352, and Life After 40 https://gregchako.com/product/976426

So, while my eyes are constantly looking ahead, I am also going down memory lane, so to speak, as after all these years of shared history on the local jazz scene, Wayne Yeager and I will come together this coming Fri. May 10th for a traditional guitar-organ trio not unlike the one we played in almost 40 years ago! I hope you'll join Wayne and I, with drummer Michael Meloy, this Friday for some traditional guitar-organ music - we bring over 200 years of experience to the stage - but what you'll hear is (I promise!) as fresh and new as Spring and fresh-cut flowers. You'll hear Blues, Standards, Bossa, & Chako Originals, or as I like to call it: The People's Music!

Again, here's the link: https://gregchako.com/event/5575175/680154674/greg-chako-guitar-organ-trio. 

Greg Chako, Mon May 6, Blog #15 from “Up & Coming”

What? Another tribute band? 

Today's blog piggy-backs on the publication of my most recent article for Just Jazz Guitar, a marvelous online magazine of which I'm an author of instructional and inspirational articles (https://jazzguitartoday.com/author/gregchako/).

In the past week or so, I've seen advertisements for performances in tribute of: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Ella, Horace Silver and others. These particular shows cost more than double the cost of all the other shows happening regularly that are not necessarily playing the music of one particular dead artist. In my own hometown of Cincinnati in fact, I just noticed a couple shows featuring the music of Horace Silver. 

Now, I love me some Horace Silver . . . In fact, I'm an expert on his music! I arranged and performed four of his songs which appeared on my first CD in 1994. I sent copies to Horace and he replied that he dug what I did with them. I transcribed much of the material on some of his albums, such as The Stylings of Silver, and performed it live with my (Cincinnati) Doc's Place house band in the early 1980's. I attended Silver's funeral ceremony in NYC, sitting next to Louis Hayes and Benny Maupin, who I interviewed along with numerous other Silver sidemen for an academic research paper that I got an “A” grade on at Eastman. I did extensive research, read numerous books, analyzed much of his writing, and conducted as many interviews with his sidemen as I could. The bibliography alone is 3 pages. I can email anyone interested a PDF of my paper, or you can go to the “Academic” page of my website: https://gregchako.com/academic and scroll down just a little and click on the hyperlink which looks like this: Horace Silver: A New Definition of Greatness 252 KB 

There are numerous examples of my own writing that are inspired by Silver, most notably I believe, is my original quintet song Smooth Ride, from my Integration II album. It's a song that I also performed as a big band arrangement for my final Doctoral recital at Eastman. That recital is the 10th video on the following video page link of my website, and it's track 7 (the final track) of the entire recital: https://gregchako.com/video

But as much as I obviously love Silver, why would I pay $20-25 cover charge to go see one of my former sidemen play the music of Horace Silver? If I want to hear the music of Miles, Blakey, Silver, Ella, or that of any other dead Master jazz artist, I prefer to hear the original versions on recordings or videos. Besides, I know that for a fact, NOBODY in this town or anywhere else plays like Horace Silver. I can guarantee that were I to go to such a concert, it'd be too many notes played, and the wrong ones to boot! Even if my assumption is wrong and they played Silver's compositions accurately and with authority, would it be as good as the original?

There's a marvelous man named Andrew White who passed away just a few years ago. A saxophonist and Coltrane scholar, who in his own words, possessed “various artistic gifts of excess,” he achieved the most remarkable feat of transcribing over 800 Coltrane solos. There was, then and now, nobody on the planet who could match his hands-on knowledge of Tranes' sax playing, yet . . .  How many Andrew White albums do you have? 

It seems to me, and is confirmed to me by industry leaders in the know who sometimes advise me, that were I to put together a Horace Silver show, that in and of itself, would guarantee me a higher level of success than what I have now. I personally know guitar-playing peers who were always good, but only after releasing an album of Thelonious Monk songs did the media begin to pay more attention to them. Isn't that what happened to Master player and composer Joe Henderson? After classic albums featuring his own wonderful writing: In ‘n Out; Inner Urge; Mode for Joe; The Kicker; Power to the People, Black Narcissus etc., it was the music of Billy Strayhorn (Lush Life), Miles (So Near So Far) and Jobim (Double Rainbow) that won him 3 Grammy’s and the most critical success of his life.

I love the music of Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton, Wes Montgomery, and Horace Silver, so I do see the appeal and and I feel the desire of doing tribute albums to artists I admire like them; but at the same time, I also realize that going on 66 years of age in June, and having nearly died of Sepsis a couple weeks ago, my time and energy is limited; there's still an infinite amount music in the cosmos that I want to tap into and channel through my own lens, in other words, there's plenty more music inside of me waiting to be composed. And as much as I wish to be part of a musical community that shares (socializes) and supports each other (comes to each others shows), I and all of us I presume, must use our time and money wisely . . . therefore I will not be attending your tribute show . . . 

Actually, of all the dead Master jazz musicians mentioned in this blog, Miles, Blakey, Henderson, Cedar & Silver, I'd bet money that as much as they'd appreciate the remembrance we pay them, what they'd want even more is to hear something NEW and ORIGINAL . . . what are we bringing to the table?

For the album cover pictured above, I borrowed 4 already existing covers for my 2007 release, Everybody's Got a Name, one from Wes, one from Herbie, one from Sam Jones, and one from Philly Jo Jones, then had our names and pictures inserted into the original designs. I hope you appreciate the humor and message of the title. I'll never forget Maestro Mulgrew Miller telling me in person, after hearing this album, “Your shit's . . . (long pause) . . . DIFFERENT!” Grew said I'd be more famous if I had recorded with him and some of his NY-based contemporaries - ha ha! Don't I know it! 

The reissue will be released this Friday April 12th at 12am but the cover has been redesigned:

Greg Chako, Mon Apr 8, Blog #14 from “What's on my Mind?”

My final word about GOD 

I received unsolicited private text messages complaining that I did not mention the word GOD in my last blog post which described my recent medical setback. It was a conscious choice on my part because I do not want to get into a heated debate about religion or politics. My relationship with GOD or my “HigherPower” is a private one which I am aware of each and every moment. I am eternally grateful for all the well-wishes I have received. They have helped me immensely and I am grateful for all the genuine concern and prayers for my well-being.  

For those of you who do not actually know me, I ask that if you don't have something nice and supportive to say to me, please don't say it . . . At least, not unsolicited in my private inbox. I am focusing on the gift of life I've had the pleasure to enjoy for a little longer than I might have thought one week ago lying in the hospital. 

Let me share with you some words of a very wise man which I totally can relate to and believe in, from Hazrat Inayat Khan:

“Music is called a divine or celestial art, not only because of its use in religion and devotion, and because it is in itself a universal religion, but because of its fineness in comparison with all other arts and sciences.”  

“All religions have taught that the origin of the whole of creation is sound”.  

“What art cannot express, poetry explains; what poetry cannot express, is expressed by music. Therefore to a thinker music in all ages will stand supreme as the highest expression of what is deepest in oneself...”;
“...in the East... music has always been taken to be a part of religion...” 

“No part of the world, East or West, can really deny the divinity of music. In the first place, music is the language of the soul; and for two people of different nations or races to unite there is no better means than music. For music not only unites man to man, but man to God”.

I am a musician. My music speaks for itself. Learn it, do it, share it.

Greg Chako, Fri Mar 22nd, Blog #13 from “What's on my Mind?”

From touring Cleveland and upstate NY straight to the ER and a 9-day hospital bed 

I was so excited and prepared to play this past weekend . . . so many plans were made and there were so many people I looked forward to seeing during my recording trio's trip to Cleveland and upstate NY. But the universe had other plans for me.

Wed. night Mar 6th, one week prior to our scheduled departure from Cincinnati, just after I finished teaching for the evening, I suffered uncontrollable chills and went to bed early. I slept 14 hours and went to see my family doctor the very next day. She said I had bacteria in  my urine and prescribed an antibiotic pill. She didnt realize that the bacteria I had was resistant to any pilled medication. Sat. Mar. 9th I went to the ER, was admitted, and didn't leave until 9 days later, coming home last night Mon. Mar. 18th (the same day we were supposed to return from our tour!).

The UTI was a particular strain very difficult to treat. It could only be treated with one type of antibiotic and only by IV. It had infected my kidneys, causing acute renal failure. On the surface, it looked like I needed Dialysis. Fortunately for me, the kidney doctors weren't so quick to go that route. After looking very carefully over my medical records and consulting with an Infectious Disease specialist, the right antibiotic protocol was found; a couple days after beginning the medicine and re-hydrating me, the alarming kidney decline began to at first, level-off, before eventually improving back in the right direction and the kidneys began regaining functionality. As the kidneys improved, the antibiotics dose could be increased and my road to a full recovery began.

The night right after my admittance, I was at an all-time low. I didnt think I was going to make it. But the next morning, as I regained my appetite and began feeling better day by day, my optimism grew and I realized I was being given a new lease on life (likely the title of a new album now in the works). When the nurse took out my Catheter yesterday about 6 hours before my ultimate discharge, I felt like a “free man” after serving a life sentence. 

I am now home and have fully resumed my music teaching and playing schedule. I taught my instrumental workshop last night, have private lessons today and am teaching a vocal workshop; I have gigs on Fri Mar 22, Tue Mar 26, Fri Mar 29, and a private function Sat Mar 30. Check the “Live Performance” page of my website for details: https://gregchako.com/live-performances

I dedicate my life to music; composing it; recording it; playing it; sharing it, and teaching it. It is my purpose; my gift; my lover, and my passion. I am renewing my vows! 

Greg Chako, Tue Mar 19th, Blog #12 from “What's on my Mind?”

Cleveland, Rochester, Geneva NY peeps - The Greg Chako Trio is coming your way! 

I'm so excited to be coming to perform in the Greater Rochester Area of upstate New York where I lived for almost six years while attending a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) program at the famous Eastman School of Music 2011-2015. I lived on Grantham Rd. in East Irondequoit for the duration of my time there, moving to Cincinnati in 2017. 

Besides school, gigs, and teaching privately, I also worked as a delivery driver at the (also) famous Donuts Delite/Salvatore's Pizza. As I anticipate my return to that area, my head fills with so many memories of the friends I made and the experiences I had . . . as they say, time and distance makes the heart grow fonder!

I am traveling with my recording trio of Mason Daugherty-bass & Michael Meloy-drums. Mason and I recorded A Place for Bass - Chamber Jazz Duets” in 2023 to rave reviews by luminaries such as Rufus Reid, Dave Stryker, John Clayton, Rodney Jones, Ron McClure, Pete Bernstein and many others. “Life After 40” came out a little over a month ago, featuring former Miles Davis percussionist, Steve Thornton on all but one track, and pianist Wayne Yeager on 3 tracks. Both of those albums, like most of the ones preceding them, contain all Chako originals, and the mini-tour coming up will feature mostly the material from both those albums.

We start at Cleveland's Bop Stop for one night only Thurs Mar. 14th: https://www.themusicsettlement.org/events/2024/03/14/greg-chako-trio-bop-stop

Fri/Sat night & Sunday Brunch (Mar. 15/16/17), we're at The Linden Social Club in Geneva, NY: https://gregchako.com/event/5481032/673329183/greg-chako-trio-live-on-the-road

My wife and I are staying in East Irondequoit where we lived before relocating to Cincinnati, and my two bandmates will be staying nearby, also in Irondequoit. I'm looking forward to seeing some friends and I will be calling you if you don't call me first! In Cleveland, I'm keen to meet some friends and fans I've known for a while but never actually met in person. I am anticipating an exciting time and some great music too!

It was March when my wife and I moved to Cincinnati and I recall well that it was snowing in ROC! I checked the weather report today and so far it looks like we'll be snow-safe this trip. Can't wait to meet everyone and make the rounds!

This trio pictured above and below have already tracked a new album. Titled “Standard Roots,” it is my 17th album and unlike previous releases which featured all-originals, this newest one will be a return to the type of music I played at the outset of my career more than 30 years ago - it contains all first-takes of the kinds of songs from The Great American Songbook that we often play on local gigs today. We went into the studio and just played whatever came to mind. I'll have physical copies much sooner, but the official label release for World-Wide streaming will be in either May or June this year. Stay tuned . . . and hope to see you in person soon!

For those in Cincinnati, my next performance is this Friday Mar. 8, with my 2nd favorite trio in the land, details here: https://gregchako.com/event/5411703/668763678/david-lloyd-trio-featuring-greg-chako-todd-remmy 

Greg Chako, Tue. Mar. 5th 2024, Blog #11 from “Up & Coming!”

Shanghai Swing, Threads, & the Money Man! 

My first gig in Shanghai got off to a scary start! I had purchased RT air tickets for all my band members and had an executed contract with the hotel, but I found out less than 48 hours before my flight that my bassist Tim Hauff had no intention of coming! He went off his psycho meds and was in an unstable mental state. I was literally at the Singapore airport waiting for my departure to Shanghai for the gig when I made a phone call to bassist Donald Jackson in Chicago to see if he could step in literally at the last minute for our 3-month contract. Donald said he could make the gig! I borded my plane and had to sort out the details after I got to Shanghai. After that near disaster, I never gave flight tickets to my guys unless it was at the airport waiting with instruments for departure. Apparently, you never really know who's literally crazy enough to bite the hand that feeds them! A couple week later while on the gig with Donald, I found out that Tim actually USED the ticket that I had paid for, had himself a free Shanghai vacation on me! He had enough sense not to show his despicable face on my gig, but I know he made all the rounds of the Shanghai jazz scene except my gig and word got back to me of his treachery from my fellow expat players in town.

Fortunately for me though, Donald Jackson was one of the best, baddest bassists on the entire planet! Unfortunatey, he and pianist Jack Holland have since died, but I'll never forget them!  Jack was introduced to me through Donald. They were both on The Treniers gig in LasVegas, where they backed up the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and the rest of the “Rat Pack”. Jack had 50 years of professional experience when I met him, and was a total sweetheart, he literally “tickled the ivories”. After my Shanghai gig was finished, Donald later returned to China, living and playing there right up until the time of his death a few years ago. 

After the first three months of our contract, I signed a nine-month extension which, if it hadn't been for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) shutting down everything in 2003, would have resulted in a one-year-long residency! We made a good impression in China. Here are some press reviews from our stint there:

Shanghai is fascinating. There's an unusual mixture of old and new. The Old City of Shanghai stands on the site of a relatively small settlement in ancient times, which began to develop in importance in the 12th and 13th century, but surrounding it now are brand-spanking new buildings and neighborhoods. 

Besides this unique mix of cutting-edge new + ancient-old culture, one thing that I noticed is that when you walk into a pharmacy there, you see a man with a white lab coat behind a long glass display case . . . you're sick, so he asks you, “Do you want Western medicine or Chinese medicine?” If you want Western, he may give you something like Penicillin or the same tablet that you might receive here; but if you say Chinese, he'll ask you some questions about your condition, grab a glass jar of roots from the display case, use a pestle and mortar to grind it up and give you instructions like, “add hot water and drink this before meals 3X a day for one week.” Neat! In case you were wondering, Penicillin is considered over-the-counter in China, and the guy in the white lab coat is a doctor. In some ways (health care?), the Chinese seem way ahead of us . . . Well, let's face it . . . as a culture they've had hundreds of years of historical head start!

There's a clothing market in Shanghai where you can buy either cloth or have clothing (like a suit or coat) made by hand in less than 2-3 days. The doormen greeting guests as they arrived at the Westin Bund Center where we were playing 6-nights a week wore long Cashmere overcoats, double-breasted with Chinese collars. Donald and I took pictures of them and brought them to the Cashmere stall at the clothing market. We had Cashmere coats made from the picture. I still have and use mine. I often get compliments on it when worn here. I did the same with a picture from a magazine of Tom Cruise wearing an unique-designed leather jacket. I took it to the leather stall at the same market and they copied it very well! The prices are unbelievably inexpensive - the most expensive thing I bought there was the Cashmere overcoat, worth at least $1,000.00, I think I paid around $200+ for it. The suits I had made there have lasted all these years. The clothes I had made in Shanghai are durable! I suggest that if you ever get a chance to travel to Shanghai, bring an empty suitcase with you and then fill it up with all new clothes that you buy there. No way you'll ever find a better deal anywhere on Earth. And it's a very quick turn-around, like I said, 2-3 days with a fitting.

The biggest clothing market in Shanghai is Qipu Lu Clothing Market. Also known as Cheap Lu, it's the closest visitors can get to a wholesale clothes market in Shanghai. 

There were many memorable and humorous experiences on this particular gig. For instance . . . I insisted on cash US dollars as payment. We made approximately US$2,400.00 per week. Our rooms were located on the very same floor as the General Manager of the hotel and those 5 rooms were the only rooms on that floor. We got a full accommodation package including all meals, laundry service, etc. We were paid once every two weeks. In order to get paid in US dollars, the “money man” had to be called in. Every two weeks I went down to the F&B Directors office, where he, the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and I would wait for the “money man.” I kid you not! He showed up in a full length black trench coat and the type of hat you might imagine Humphery Bogart wearing in a mobster movie. He carried a brown paper bag filled with $4,800 US dollars. He'd turn the bag upside down and let all the bills land on the F&B Directors desk where it would be counted. Then I would leave that room with all of my pockets filled with cash (somewhat nerve-wracking to say the least!) and make my way upstairs to pay each individual musician one-at-a-time. 

I'll say that the Chinese people are so warm and wonderful. It would be a mistake to in any way to confuse the people with the government in China, or to be swayed by some of the negative China-bashing propaganda we might hear in the USA. The people are entrepreneurial, curious, humorous, well-informed (better than you might think!) and if you make a friend there, he/she is a friend for life! 

Living and playing in Asia as much I have has not done much at all to advance my professional jazz career in America. I find that, particularly here in Cincinnati, Ohio where I live, folks don't seem to care what I accomplished abroad - they're more interested in knowing what high school I went to - to say that's it's parochial here might be an understatement! But traveling is eye-opening. My life experiences abroad have made me a better person inside, where it counts, and I'll be forever grateful for it.

My band got onto local Shanghai TV once. Here's a copy of the 5-minute show. It's on my YouTube channel - please subscribe to my channel for free and peruse the many videos I have there - Jack Holland and Donald Jackson RIP Maestros!

https://youtu.be/G1iECP4o3aU?si=_kl1v0K4X_4bx0AW

Greg Chako Sat. Mar. 2nd, Blog #10 from “What's on My Mind?”

Singapore Swing & Filipino Parties 

My first highlight of 2023 occurred in January '23 when my wife and I returned to Singapore and the Philippines to visit her family there, and if that weren't already good enough, I was able to secure a two-nights in a row ticketed weekend jazz gig at The Jazz Loft. There I was reunited onstage with musicians I hadn't seen in person or played with for about 25 years, not since I lived there 1995-2003. The quartet that accompanied me in Singapore was Mei Sheum-piano, Christy Smith-bass, Greg Lyons-sax, and Benjamin Low on drums. I had recorded with each of them (except Ben) ‘back in the day’ on the following records: https://gregchako.com/album/1900351/integration-ii & https://gregchako.bandcamp.com/album/paint-a-picture-tell-a-story. So, to see those old friends and bandmates of mine after so long, and to perform with them for such an enthused full house audience was a dream come true! You can see our first set here: https://youtu.be/EsTg0XOtTGk?si=KKuwbn0bjLHrdrMF 

 

Visiting Asia after living for so long back in America was a (welcome) culture shock . . . Singapore is one of the cleanest and safest countries on Earth. There are exotic sights, both in Nature and architecture. The food is as diverse as the peoples, and its amazingly FRESH and available virtually 24/7. In that way, it's like NYC, the city that never sleeps! 

Pictured directly below is a familiar structure in Singapore. It has a casino on top in the shape of a ship, a hotel with rooftop “Infinity” pools, and it's surrounded by lush tropical gardens and much more interesting architecture. My wife is pictured in front:

Some friends here in the States seemed surprised that I was able to hook up with such good players there. But the diversity in Singapore is really across the board. I feel more of a real community vibe in Asia than I do here, and without a doubt in my mind, the people there have more social consciousness than we do in the USA. It's also notable that there are more venues for live jazz in tiny little Singapore than there are in my hometown of Cincinnati, and the gigs pay better there too! I can count on one hand the number of ticketed jazz performances I've played in Cincinnati, and I have never played two nights in a row with the same band the way I did in Singapore, much less to full houses. Some may be surprised at that, but as many great jazz artists have already said jazz, arguably America's greatest artistic contribution to the world, is often more popular outside the USA than it is in its birthplace!

With regard to cultural and life-style differences, I will relate a true, humorous story. I took a train and walked to my first night's gig, leisurely taking in the many sights. It was different not having to load up the car, drive and try to find an acceptable parking place. I was plenty early, so I stopped just in front of the club on a bustling alleyway for some Indonesian Satay and a local Tiger beer. The weather was in the high 70's Fahrenheit (in January).

After our 1st nights show was finished, I noticed that our bassist Christy had left his bass onstage. I was borrowing a guitar from a fellow Ohioan, Rick Smith, who has relocated to Singapore permanently. I didn't feel comfortable leaving all the gear there without checking first, so I asked our sax man Greg Lyons (who had managed the booking). He smiled and said: “Greg, did you forget where you are? This is Singapore!  you could leave your wallet onstage and the next night, it would be exactly where you left it, untouched by anyone” He was right. I walked of the club empty handed and met my wife in Chinatown near our hotel, where we walked the streets and ate late-night (after midnight) Chinese food. 

Now that's a prime example of the type of nightlife in Singapore that I miss dearly since returning to Cincinnati.

The second half of our trip was spent in my wife's hometown, Agoo, in La Union, Philippines. Not much jazz there, but I was impressed that the local markets open at 4am. Every morning we bought our food for the day there, fresh fish (see video below), meats, fruits, veggies, deserts, etc. Didn't eat anything out of a can or microwaved. Everything I ate and drank was fresh and locally sourced. Every Sunday people from the local neighborhood gather in the streets with brooms, sweeping and tidying up the block - nobody has to tell them to do it - it's simply that they take pride and care for their immediate environment. If you walk down the street in the early evening, you will invariably be enthusiastically invited into someone's house for refreshments, and if you're braver than I am, to sing karaoke. These are examples of the true neighborliness and social consciousness that I mentioned before. Please see these short video clips I took while there. #'s 1 & 2 are just 30-seconds, and #3 is 60 seconds. 

1) Agoo (my wife's hometown) fresh market w/live jumping fish: https://youtube.com/shorts/jgGYI6ZuAqQ?si=g-QZMPKXQDMP4Dyq 

2) Delivery of fresh fish just outside the front door of my wife's family house in Agoo: https://youtube.com/shorts/1sLCS4YQTvs?si=H7IO0ZNn7YLxP7HV 

3) A common backyard party at my wife's family home: https://youtu.be/tx4D-ir08lA?si=5nw6qjvZhKGI-bZy Jay's brother keeps guard of the party-food just before guests come to the backyard:

To the right I'm seen hanging with the boys . . . the brown bottle in the forefront is Red Horse, an extra-strong lager made by the San Miguel brewing company . . . popular in the Philippines for its bold taste & high alcohol content. Jay's family knows to stock up on the Red Horse when I come to visit. That's usually what I drink when I'm there.

 

 

Red Horse is the perfect compliment to roasted pig, which is always a part of the menu . . . very crispy skin and the most moist meat . . . I'm about to dig in below. One afternoon we went to the local beach in Agoo, just a short drive from my wife's family house. We barbecued fish on the beach as the sun settled . . . My wife asked me if I wanted some fresh oysters, which are extremely common there. I told her I didn't like oysters. She said, “you've probably never had a really fresh one.” She insisted I at least try it. I never had such a delicious oyster before. It tasted like nothing I'd ever had.

Though I have surely been blessed by my various life experiences, particularly those that occurred abroad, none of them would have happened if I hadn't been willing to seize (and imagine) opportunities when they presented themselves, to travel and try new things with a child's curiosity, a lover's passion, and without fear. While I was living and working as a musician in Singapore, there was a film made about my life there, titled “An American Cat in the Lion City.” If you are at all interested in my life as a ‘Jazzman’ in Singapore, or just curious about Singapore, you may enjoy watching the film, located on the video page of my website: https://gregchako.com/video 

From that page, scroll down through the videos until you come to the one titled: “An American Cat in the Lion City, Guitarist Greg Chako in Singapore, HQ Full Version” The full version of the film is 46 minutes. Please tell me how you like it, ask me questions about Singapore, or share some of your own experiences abroad.

Greg Chako, Feb. 23rd 2024. Blog # 9 from “2023 Highlights”

Guitar Trio Reigns - A Return to my 'Standard Roots' - New Album Press - Final February Gigs. 

I played two nights in a row this weekend in a guitar-led trio with bass and drums. I and everyone there had a blast! When you're playing with musicians you like for a receptive audience, it's so much fun, and not ‘work’ at all. Playing jobs like that is my favorite form of therapy!

The G/B/D trio is how I became a professional, it's my ‘roots’. That's the format I started working with in 1995, when I began playing 6-nights a week for literally year after year after year! In the beginning, I played all covers. But, as I became more experienced composing, and later recording my own songs and, as I met a variety of horn players and percussionists, I began moving away from the traditional G/B/D trio format. The varied and vibrant musical community, and the exotic, locale environment of Singapore where I lived then inspired new sounds I began hearing in my head, and I needed more instruments and larger ensembles in order to flesh those ideas out. My albums, Integration https://gregchako.bandcamp.com/album/integration, Where We Find Ourselves https://gregchako.bandcamp.com/album/where-we-find-ourselves, and Paint a Picture, Tell a Story https://gregchako.bandcamp.com/album/paint-a-picture-tell-a-story, featured larger ensembles and all-original music scored with unique instrumentation.

Having re-located to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio in 2017, I no longer live in a tropical paradise with such an open and culturally-diverse musical community as Singapore, nor since I returned to the States have I enjoyed the marvelous opportunity to work 6-nights a week with the same hand-picked players night after night over a period of years. And obviously, since I'm not working as much as I used to, I can't afford to make the records here that I did when I was living and working abroad in Singapore and Japan, even if I could find the players.

But G/B/D trio gigs like the ones I had this weekend are such a joy! My love for the format is awakened. Even though I treasure my own song-writing above all else, I have never tired of playing the standards. Songs from The Great American Songbook (GAS) are still popular, and given the writing quality of composers such as Porter, Arlin, Hammerstein, etc., there is always ample opportunity to flex ones' improv and arranging chops on the GAS repertoire. This weekend, we got and fulfilled requests from customers asking for: Any Luiz Bonfa, Mingus, or Sinatra; Autumn Leaves, Green Dolphin Street, and Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. It's not called The Great American Songbook for nothing! These songs are masterful, at-once fun & popular, and playing them while leading a guitar trio with (the right) bassist and drummer is beautiful!

My recording trio of Michael Meloy on drums and Mason Daugherty on bass have finished tracking my 17th album. After recording so many albums featuring my own compositions, this new one is a return to the type of music I played at the outset of my career more than 25 years ago, and it'll include some of the songs that we often play locally, like on the gigs I played this weekend. The new album will feature all covers, alternating in Swing and Latin feels. True to my own history, as well as to the material covered on the record, it's going to be titled: Standard Roots, and I expect it'll be released this summer by Mint400 Records and Raining Music.

We'll be mixing and mastering Standard Roots in just a week from now, but meanwhile, we just received more positive critical acclaim for my last album, released just a month and a half ago (with the same trio), Life After 40 https://gregchako.bandcamp.com/album/life-after-40. The brand new review can be read here: https://ink19.com/2024/02/magazine/music-reviews/ynvzei-greg-chako-trio

I'm also excited to have 6 new gigs in the remaining days of Feb. 2024. Two are private and the other four are open to the public. The upcoming gigs start this week and feature a wide variety of formats (trio to sextet) and styles (Blues/Latin/Vocal). Find out where I'm playing and who I'm playing with here: https://gregchako.com/live-performances and please come to one or more of the shows and say hello! I guarantee we'll be having a BLAST!

I hope you enjoy my blog posts - I love doing it! Please leave a comment and/or share it with friends.

Greg Chako, Sunday Feb. 18th, 2024. Blog #8 from “What's on My Mind?”

 

Greg’s ability to arrange events and ‘all the trimmings’ at the drop of a hat, makes him reliable, value for money, and above all – a good mate!”

— Dean Winter, The Oriental Singapore

a total orchestra, the complete package, I LOVE his arrangements!”

— Gene Bertoncini , World-renowned guitarist

Emotionally rewarding and clearly developed. Greg’s tunes are melodic and richly complex, with intelligent and sensitive performances . . . He’s World-Class!”

— Joseph Taylor, Soundstage

An American Cat in the Lion City (short)

The documentary film An American Cat in the Lion City is a short gaze, a palimpsest, into the life and work of the American jazz guitarist, Greg Chako. In the film we experience swinging acoustic jazz of a very high calibre indeed, the jazz that Greg and his various bands have played in Asia for over six years. This short version of the film was expanded to a full length movie of the same name a year later.