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Trane Of Thought by Chris Greco Quartet

Chris Greco is a modernist, a composer par excellence and an intellectual empowerer i.e. he seems to exude a warm joviality, perhaps conviviality that is invariably reflected from his band members who go along as a tight-knit team. This album, Trane Of Thought, obviously a tribute to John Coltrane kicks off with a dreamy sequence called Sterope which exhibits a curious mélange of moaning and whispering statements from the woodwinds at his personal command, whilst the percussionist keeps on providing a chirpy beat ostensibly unconnected and yet adding up to a winsome combination when listened to holistically, with a slightly out-of-focus mind! Over nine minutes long, the number affects the sensitive listener as a befitting background to some outerspace odyssey, science fiction movie-makers should note. Greco’s spirited soprano sax playing in the latter half appears to gather the individual musical notes from all musicians like a nubile maiden gathering flowers with a lissome grace and an indolent charm.

The second tune is the title tune : Trane of Thought, carries on in very much the same vein with a beautiful solo by Greco on alto sax, which he masterfully wields to coax out sounds rather like a clarinet whilst Brad Rabuchin makes approving grunts and pings on an amplified guitar. The overall style here is pretty reminiscent of the best of jazz rock era wherein Joe Zawinul and The Weather Report used to come out often with such numbers where the simplicity of composition, a pleasing preponderance of improvisation and the general moonscape like dreaminess in the background would lift every number to slightly higher domain. The tune here is not easy to remember nor to whistle in spare time, at the same time the presentation of the melody is both tricky and seductive. It’s a good number that grows on you, with repetition.

Next is Oliver : wherein the drummer Kendall Kay defines the initial framework with the guitarist providing intelligent company, sounding as fluent as Barney Kessel or Tal Farlow. A clean sound, and proficient handling of the instrument with some truly remarkable riffs lend a peculiar flavor to this number which also scores high on the overall merit. Greco’s sax here comes out loud and strong, taking a Big Brother position and driving the group along with a maestro-like touch, suffused with gentleness.

The fifth number, Mid-City Funk is a catchy number that one can easily choose out as a representative of the whole album. A fetchingly simple melody, but with very powerful improvisation on the alto sax by Greco sets this tune apart -a complex rhythm has been employed here with a seamless melding of both the background and the lead. Rabuchin comes up with a sterling solo on the electric guitar that brings to the mind memories of some brilliant guitar work from George Benson, before he went commercial -however this piece places Rabuchin rather high in comparison due to a higher jazz quotient. Marvelous improvisation, indeed. There is a touch of dreaminess pervading this number too, rather like some of the modern jazz styles prevalent in Europe.

Next is T.D.S. with Greco in the lead, starting off with the alto sax in a number with a marked degree of freely improvised riffs : so much so that it threatens to fall to pieces in a frenzy of free jazz teetering on the avant garde. But in reality, Greco progresses with a sort of calculated uncertainty on the crisscross paths of the melody, and ends up providing the listener with a rather pleasant holistic exercise. Rabuchin butts in somewhere in the middle with another masterful solo, brightening up the proceedings whilst the drummer, Kendall Kay hisses and thumps approvingly all along rather like a doting parent. This number is so engrossing that one doesn’t realize when the 4:44 duration ends....

‘Maia’ comes slithering along next, again with Greco starting a sort of conversation on his alto sax to the singleminded heavy beat of the drums, whist the guitar gently throws in some floral petal-like offerings. The overall effect of a moonlit clouded sky pervades the whole number, and a diffuse glow of suppressed brilliance remains suspended in the listener’s mind. A very intellectual arrangement, delicately balanced and yet stimulating enough to keep the interest of the listener riveted throughout. Narrating a story with woodwinds does not seem like an easy task, but in the able hands of Greco, that comes out sounding very facile, somehow. Bravo !

‘ Electra ’ the penultimate number features some simultaneous playing of sax and guitar lending the number a peculiarly modern air. Greco’s sax often takes up the position of the spokesperson, whilst the others do their own thing, and within a short span, he starts pounding out forceful statements, increasingly bolder till Rabuchin cuts in with a sharp solo on the guitar. The number is pretty complicated to begin with, the melodic patterns zigzagging through a very elaborate passage -but the guitar solo, changes the tone to a much simplistic scenario. The overall effect is excellent, with both Greco and Rabuchin straddling the centerstage throughout. Greco has especially used some interesting honks and burps which illustrate the dramatic effect of pause, highly precise pauses accentuating the passage of the tune.

‘Soul Eyes’ the last number again features Greco on the sax, all by himself in the initial phase, as if delivering a thoughtful monologue but slowly gives way to the guitar reappearing on the scene and telling us rather softly narrated stories. During the further monologue on the sax, the guitar slithers into the background making very light, vibraphone like sounds, and thus whitewashing the background that had seemingly become clouded over the passage of alto sax into the dreamscape. A very haunting overall effect indeed.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chris Greco Quartet
  • CD Title: Trane Of Thought
  • Year Released: 1994
  • Record Label: GWSFourwinds Records
  • Tracks: 1. Sterope, 2. Trane Of Thought, 3. Oliver, 4. Merope, 5. Mid-City Funk, 6. T.D.S., 7. Maia, 8. Electra, 9. Soul Eyes.
  • Musicians: Chris Greco (woodwinds), Brad Rabuchin (guitars), Dean Taba(bass), Kendall Kay(drums).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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