|Charles Frank Mangione was born in Rochester, New York, on November 29, 1940. His formal introduction to music
began with piano lessons at age eight. Two years later he began trumpet lessons. During his early years, a major influence on his life and music was the love and warmth of his parents. They were "totally committed to their children." His album
Bellavia (on A&M), is dedicated to his parents. The commitment of Chuck's father proved to be the catalyst for some amazing experiences. Since his sons were interested in music, Chuck's dad would take them to many concerts and local clubs.
A list of those who dined and played in the Mangione living room reads like a who's who of jazz in the fifties: Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Kai Winding, Jimmy Cobb, Sam Jones, Junior Mance, Cannonball Adderley, Ronnie Zito, and Ron Carter. During these weekly (and sometimes nightly) sessions, Chuck's mother would cook for all. One of Chuck's favorite stories tells of a time when he telephoned home saying, "Mom, I'm bringing home 35 orchestra players for dinner in ten minutes." "Fine," she replied, and when they arrived dinner
Of all the musicians to play at the Mangione home, certainly the most influential was Gillespie. Chuck states: "I regard him as being my musical father". When Chuck was only 15 years old, Dizzy was so impressed with Chuck's playing that he gave him one of his upswept horns.
By the time Chuck reached high school, he was continuing his studies of trumpet and music theory at the Preparatory Department of the Eastman School of Music, and he and Gap were starting to play professionally. "Every kid in high school had a big band instead
of a rock band..." But because Chuck was "definitely more into the small group thing," he and pianist Gap formed a quintet known as the Jazz Brothers in 1958, Chuck's senior year in high school. The Jazz Brothers stayed together until 1964, playing "neo-bebop," according to Gap. Personnel originally included Sal Nistico and Roy McCurdy. Jimmy Garrison, Steve Davis, and Ron Carter also played with the Brothers. The group recorded three albums on the Riverside label:
The Jazz Brothers, Hey
Baby!, and Spring Fever. In 1962, Chuck cut an album on his own,
Recuerdo, for Jazzland Records.
From 1958 to 1963, Chuck attended the Eastman School of Music and received a Bachelor of Music degree. Chuck talks of the total absence of jazz at Eastman: "There wasn't anything. There were a bunch of guys who got together, but there wasn't anything being taught or offered as a course.
Chuck, however, wishes that he had taken more advantage of Eastman. At age 18, he thought he had his life all planned out, and now he keeps "trying to tell young people to stay open to everything". As he entered Eastman, Chuck held the following belief:
I was gonna be a bebop player in a jazz club. I would have committed anybody to an insane asylum who walked up to me and said, "Pretty soon you're gonna have a chance to conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra."
Although his years as an Eastman student were marred by close-mindedness and a discontent with the lack of a jazz program, many influential events took place at the Rochester conservatory. It was there that Chuck first began playing the flugelhorn. "They needed somebody to play it, and I decided that it suited my personality; it was darker and mellower than the trumpet." Ever since that time, Chuck has continued his flugelhorn work.
Also while at Eastman, a classmate asked Chuck to compose a jazz-oriented orchestra piece for his graduation recital. And thus,
Feel Of A Vision was written for one of Chuck's trumpet-playing classmates, Lew Soloff.
Feel of A Vision is an important piece as it marks Chuck's early experimentation with strings and swing.
After graduation, Chuck taught music for a year in Rochester. In 1965 he decided to move to New York City and freelance, "just to see what could happen". After being nurtured by many jazz greats, Chuck wanted to see if he could make it alone. And he did. Until the end of 1965, Chuck worked with the big-bands of Maynard Ferguson and Kai Winding.
At the end of 1965, Chuck's dream came true. While still in New York City, he was offered the trumpet spot with his "boyhood idol," drummer Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Blakey's sextet, including Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, and Wayne Shorter, had just broken up and Blakey formed a new quintet featuring Chuck, Keith Jarrett, and (later) Chick Corea. For the next two-and-a-half years, Chuck stayed with the Jazz Messengers and recorded with Blakey on Limelight Records. Chuck speaks glowingly of Art and the experience with the Messengers. The influence of Blakey's "hard-bop", with its African and Latin rhythmic qualities and accessible melodies, can be seen clearly in much of Chuck's music today.
In 1968 Chuck returned to Rochester and, for a while, wrote for the Outsiders, a Cleveland-based Capitol Records rock group. When the group collapsed, Chuck returned to teaching at the Hochstein School of Music in Rochester. Striving to build up jazz education, he set up all-city and all-county high school jazz ensembles and improvisation courses. Chuck brought this same vigor to Eastman, where he returned as a faculty member and directed the Eastman Jazz Ensemble.
When I arrived, there was only one jazz ensemble. When I left, there was a studio orchestra, a film-writing course, an improvisation course and three jazz ensembles.
Strangely enough, this second stay at Rochester was much like the first - somewhat disappointing. Chuck admits that he was narrow-minded as a student:
But when I came back I realized that the school was thinking in one direction too. They were cranking out music education majors and would-be symphony players, but teaching jobs are hard to get and symphony jobs are almost impossible to find.
As Chuck began to direct the Jazz Ensemble in 1968, he began to think about a quartet. His quartet got its start in 1969 by playing in a Rochester singles bar. Chuck, for the first time, played piano as well as flugelhorn at performances.
Later in 1969, Chuck had the desire to "hear" some music that he had written. Like
Feel Of A Vision, the music was scored for orchestra and soloists. So, Chuck personally hired fifty musicians and put on a concert called "Kaleidoscope". The concert was a musical success, a financial fiasco. But "Kaleidoscope" proved to be the biggest break ever for Chuck's career. On the basis of the concert, Tom Iannaccone, manager of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, invited Chuck to guest-conduct the Philharmonic in a concert of Mangione music. The May 9, 1970 concert, called
"Friends And Love", sold out at the Eastman Theater. The show was videotaped by WXXI, the local educational station, and has been aired nationally on the Public Broadcasting System.
After the concert, Chuck was astonished by the high quality of the 4-track recording. "I couldn't believe that nobody else was ever going to hear this music!" Unfortunately, the best recording of the concert was made by a four-track, 18 mike tape recorder backing up the WXXI videotape. Nevertheless, Chuck borrowed money from the bank, paid the orchestra, and independently released a two-record set. "The album was never meant to be an album". Record sales boomed in Western New York, and Mercury Records released it and album sales soared. The album came to mean a contract, a 1971 Grammy nomination (Best Instrumental) for
Hill Where The Lord Hides, and a business manager - Tom
Shortly after Friends And Love came two more concepts: "Freddie's Walkin'" and
"Together". The latter concert was recorded live with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, videotaped, and shown nationally on PBS. Later, the first quartet album,
The Chuck Mangione Quartet, was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Small Group.
The summer of 1972 found the Quartet with an invitation to the Montreux International Jazz Festival followed by three weeks of nightly concerts at Ronnie Scott's, a prestigious London jazz spot. The Quartet returned from Europe and immediately released
Alive in August of 1972. Alive was the second solo effort by the Quartet.
The year 1973 produced another album - Land Of Make Believe, this time with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Toronto's Massey Hall. The album received Grammy nominations for Best Big Band Performance and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist (for the title cut). Chuck's first commercial network television appearance came as a result of this album. In December, 1974, Merv Griffin asked Chuck to appear on his show to conduct and play the entire version of Land Of Make Believe - 12 minutes of uninterrupted music.
Early in 1975 Chuck released his first A&M album, Chase The Clouds
Away. Two 1975 Grammy nominations went to this album. The title cut was played as background music during the telecasts of the 1976
Olympic Games. Record World named Chuck Mangione 1975's Most Promising Male Jazz Artist.
After seven nominations, Chuck won his first Grammy Award in 1976 - for Best Instrumental Composition for
Bellavia, the title tune for his second A&M album - in a field of nominees which included Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, And Fire, Chick Corea, Quincy Jones, and Henry Mancini.
Chuck insists the key to his hugely, successful album, Feels So
Good, was in the title. "It was the first recording with my new quartet. There's a looseness in the music; it's not as structured as some of the things we've done in the past; we just let it happen". Feels So Good, released in October 1977, was certified as Chuck's first gold album in February 1978. By April the album had been certified platinum and is now past double-platinum status.
Chuck's subsequent album for A&M was Children Of Sanchez. This album contains music written for the film The
Children Of Sanchez based on the Oscar Lewis classic. In 1978 the album Children of Sanchez won him his second Grammy - Best Pop Instrumental Performance - and from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for the Best Original Score.
For Chuck Mangione, the year 1978-1979 was an amazing year. Throughout the music trade magazines as well as in Rolling Stone and Playboy, it was "clean sweep" time for Chuck Mangione and his Feels So Good with his being named Jazz Artist of the Year, Instrumentalist of the year, Most Promising Instrumentalist, Top Fusion Artist, Top Producer, Top Instrumentalist, Outstanding Jazz Artist & International Jazz Award Winner. Cashbox 1979 award named him Composer / Arranger of the Decade.
Chuck Mangione has gone on to record albums with Columbia records and on his own label Feels So Good Records. He is currently with Chesky Records with his newest release
Everything For Love.