Chuck Mangione - flugelhorn, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Gerry Niewood - soprano sax, alto flute; Alphonso Johnson - electric bass; Joe La Barbera - drums
Rochester's own Chuck Mangione was riding high on the strength of his recent release Land of Make Believe when he performed at the Philharmonic Hall with his quartet as part of the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival. This album would prove to be a breakthrough recording in Mangione's career, launching him toward superstardom by the late '70s with the release of the million-selling Feels So Good, a landmark album that laid the groundwork for the so-called smooth jazz genre.
Mangione's crew opens its Philharmonic set with the tender, hymn-like "Please Treat Her Well," which prominently features Gerry Niewood on alto flute and also has the leader accompanying and soloing on Fender Rhodes electric piano. Philadelphia bassist Alphonso Johnson (introduced by Mangione here as "Al Johnson" just a year before joining Weather Report) adds some bubbling contrapuntal bass lines to propel the proceedings. Next up is the enchanting title track from Mangione's Land of Make Believe. With Johnson laying down the catchy bass ostinato, Mangione switches to his trademark flugelhorn and gently layers on the relaxed, melodic motif as the piece develops. Niewood blends beautifully on the frontline on soprano sax over the theme here before breaking loose and developing an extended solo with Mangione deftly comping behind him on the Rhodes. The only thing missing on this engaging version are Esther Satterfield's buoyant vocals and the lush presence of the full Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic Orchestra, both highlighted on the popular recording. Drummer Joe La Barbera, who would later become a key member of Bill Evans' last trio, plays a military drum cadence to kick off "Legend of the One-Eyed Sailor," a dynamic piece that also appeared on Land of Make Believe. And the Mangione quartet concludes this Philharmonic set by reprising the infectious "Land of Make Believe," which gained heavy radioplay that summer of 1973.`
Mangione's mellow-toned flugelhorn and engaging compositions laid the groundwork for what would later become the smooth jazz movement. Growing up in Rochester as a Dizzy Gillespie-inspired bop trumpeter, Mangione and his piano playing brother Gap formed the Jazz Brothers and recorded three straight ahead albums for the Riverside label in the early '60s. In 1966, he played alongside pianist Keith Jarrett in an edition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and by 1970, while serving as a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music, he collaborated with the Rochester Philharmonic on his first orchestral outing, the live Friends and Love, which introduced his popular tune "Hill Where the Lord Hides." He scored a similar success with 1973's orchestral Land of Make Believe, featuring the Hamilton Philharmonic of Ontario, Canada, and introducing vocalist Esther Satterfield. Following up on the success of 1975's Chase the Clouds Away, Mangione would score an even bigger hit with 1977's Feels So Good, which some consider to have jump-started the whole smooth jazz movement.
During the '80s, Mangione recorded for the Columbia label and after a period of inactivity during the '90s he made a reunion with his Feels So Good band in 1997. His most recent recordings were 1999's The Feeling's Back and 2000's Everything for Love, both for the Chesky label. In recent years, Mangione has had a recurring voiceover role on the animated television series King of the Hill. (Milkowski)