Chuck Mangione - Feelin' The
by Patricia Myers
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Ten years ago, Chuck Mangione was burned out. For two decades, he had played his mellow flugelhorn at festivals and one-nighters around the world, issuing an album every year. Feels So Good was a megahit in 1977. He'd won two Grammys and an Emmy. The 1976 and 1980 Olympics had featured his recordings, "Chase The Clouds Away" and "Give It All You Got."
Mangione gave it all he had until 1989. It was time to chill. After a four-year sabbatical, Mangione resumed performing. This year he recorded for the first time in a decade.
The aptly titled The Feeling's Back for Chesky Records is an album filled with the kind of
soulful melodies and rich harmonies that won him fans and awards in the '70s
and '80s. But those 20 years of one-nighters, festivals, studio sessions, and unending travel took their toll.
"Toward the end, I felt numb," said Mangione, 58. "It was like I was on a merry-go-round. Somebody would hand me a schedule and I'd get on a plane, go to a hotel and order room service. It was time to recharge my batteries." He stopped playing after a live recording at the Village Gate in 1989.
The sabbatical ended the year after the death of
Dizzy Gillespie, his main mentor and a family friend.
"Just before Dizzy died in January 1993 he told me, 'Next
year, you and I are going to be back.' I went back to
playing concerts and clubs in 1994."
Weary of label executives with a hit-formula
approach to albums, Mangione resisted recording again.
"I didn't want to record something I didn't like, because
if it became a hit I wouldn't be happy playing it."
But when brothers David and Norman Chesky of the
audiophile label suggested a Brazilian-flavored album, "I
got very excited," says Mangione. "I've always
loved Brazilian music, and my music has some of the same
ingredients. It's so melodic, and I love the discipline of
Latin music, that you don't have to change it every measure,
you're just going for the groove."
Four Mangione originals are on the new album,
along with Brazilian compositions including "Manha de
Carnaval" and Jobim's "Fotografia," as well as
"La Vie en Rose," a song he played as a young trumpet
student. The core ensemble includes longtime colleague
Gerry Niewood on flute, Cliff Korman on keys, Jay Azzolina on
guitar, Paulo Braga on drums, Café on percussion, David Finck
and Kip Reid on bass.
The album was recorded last October in St.
Peter's Church in New York City. "I walked up on the
altar and played a few notes on my horn. Then we set up
the band in a semicircle right on the altar, with one microphone
in the middle. The album is just the way we played it, no
Mangione says he learned the most about music
from family friend Dizzy Gillespie. "He was a
brilliant player and created a unique kind of music. And
he was never afraid to let the audience know he was having a
good time. "Dizzy taught me that if you want to just
play whatever you want to play without considering the audience,
fine. But if you want to get paid, you're now in a
Mangione has been playing trumpet since the age
of 10. "That's close to 50 years of honkin', and I've
written probably 95 percent of music I've played."
But, he adds, "I don't take credit for writing the
music. I feel like I'm like the cord between the plug in
the wall and the tape recorder. I wait around and hope I
get some new information, and then try to present it in the best
possible way. I'm very protective of it and don't put it
out there until I feel like it's really happening."
Mangione believes he gained a following because
listeners can remember his melodies. "I think what's
happening today in a lot of music is that people are getting
into it to see where it's going, rather than looking backward to
see where it came from."
Mangione's early jazz education was sparked by
his father taking him and his brother Gap to Sunday afternoon
concerts to hear touring jazz greats. By high school, the
pair had organized a bebop band called The Jazz Brothers.
"We were playing all the material of Dizzy, Art Blakey,
Horace Silver, and Charlie Parker. When my father took us
to nightclubs, he would walk up to someone like Dizzy and say,
'Hi, Mr. Gillespie. There are my two sons and they can
play.' And we would sit in.
"Then my dad would invite everyone to our
house in Rochester for spaghetti and homemade wine. Dad
had a grocery store attached to the house, and mother loved to
cook, so we could have a party in a minute. This week it
would be Dizzy, the next week Carmen McRae, then Sarah Vaughan,
Art Blakey, and Kai Winding."
The Jazz Brothers recorded three albums for
Jazzland in 1960-61, featuring saxophonists Sal Nestico and Joe
Romano. During that time, Chuck was attending the Eastman
School of Music in Rochester. After earning a bachelor's
degree, he left Rochester to play with the bands of Kai Winding,
Maynard Ferguson, and Woody Herman. When Freddie Hubbard
exited Blakey's band, the leader contacted Dizzy for a
replacement suggestion. Gillespie asked, "Remember
the kid from Rochester?"
Mangione played with Blakey from 1965-67.
It was a dream come true. "When I was a senior in
high school," he recalls, "my dream was to play center
field for the Yankees, and trumpet with Art Blakey at
night! Since I only weighed 90 pounds, Mickey Mantle
didn't have to worry."
After the Blakey band, Mangione returned to
Eastman as director of its jazz ensemble. He began writing
music for his new quartet, which included reedsman Gerry Niewood.
The blend of jazz, pop, folk, and classical
music was performed during a 1970 "Friends and Love"
concert with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. It
included "Hill Where The Lord Hides" and was recorded
for both a PBS-TV special and an album, leading to his
major-label debut with Mercury Records and a Grammy
nomination. He later recorded for Columbia, Verve and
His biggest hits include Grammy winners Bellavia
(1976) and Children Of Sanchez (1978 soundtrack and a
gold album). Give It All You Got won a 1980 Emmy,
and he was nominated for Grammys for Hill Where The Lord
Hides (1970) and Land Of Make Believe (1973).
Some of the albums have been reissued as CDs.
Mangione's re-emergence included a five-concert
series for the 25th anniversary of Land Of Make Believe,
featuring a 28-piece orchestra and vocalist Dianne Reeves.
"That was Dianne's senior class song, so she had sung it
since high school. It was great to know she really loved
Father of two and a grandfather, Mangione also
presents "Cat in the Hat" matinees in nightclubs,
parents, and educators. "No one can get in without a
kid. We play our music and talk about it, then get them up
on stage to try to get a sound out of the instruments."
Mangione often is identified by the younger set
as being part of the animated TV series King Of The Hill.
He plays himself, wearing his trademark hat as celebrity
spokesman for Mega-lo-Mart. "I have a jazzercise
video to 'Feels So Good,' which is the love song of the main
characters, Hank and Peggy Hill. And I have wonderful
lines like 'I have two pounds of gourmet chocolate, and it feels
"I play a Calicchio flugelhorn and
trumpet, also a Kurzweil PC88 keyboard that has a nice acoustic
piano sound and a decent Fender-Rhodes sound, with
"I listen to the records I grew up
with: Clifford Brown With Strings, Billie Holiday's
Lady In Satin, and I love the '50s and '60s music of
Miles Davis and any Dizzy Gillespie record. Another
favorite player is Chick Corea, not one particular record, I
just love his playing, and he's the greatest accompanist.
I really don't listen to a whole lot of other people's music
because, being a composer, I don't want anyone to say I stole
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