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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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THE CHAQUITO BIG BAND

Spies and Dolls /
TV Thrillers

Vocalion CDSML 8465

 

 


1. They Call Me Mister Tibbs
2. Bullitt
3. The Anderson Tapes
4. Spies and Dolls
5. The Looking Glass War
6. The French Connection
7. When Eight Bells Toll
8. The Spy’s Wife
9. Money Is
10. Our Man Flint
11. The Spy with a Cold Nose
12. Shaft
13. Hawaii 5-0
14. The Name of the Game
15. It Takes a Thief
16. A Man Called Ironside
17. Mission Impossible
18. Softly Softly
19. The Troubleshooters
20. I Spy
21. Mannix
22. The Untouchables
23. Callan
24. F.B.I.

 

Chaquito was one of the pseudonyms of arranger/composer John Gregory. Under this name, he became famous for a series of albums with Latin-American rhythms. I still have in my collection a couple of LPs by "Chaquito and the Quedo Brass" ("quedo" is apparently Spanish for soft or gentle). Gregory's arrangements were often jazzy and the two LPs assembled on this CD illustrate the fact. You might categorise this music as "easy listening" except that it includes plenty of solos by such jazzmen as Albert Hall, Ray Davies and Judd Proctor.

These recordings were made in 1972 and consist primarily of themes from film and television. Because they come from thrillers or spy stories, the tunes are frequently dramatic, sometimes ominous, and they give full reign to John Gregory's expertise as an arranger. He has the skill to vary the arrangements so that they suit particular tunes and don't sound as samey as many interpretations of "popular" themes. For example, the blaring brass in Quincy Jones's film theme They Call Me Mister Tibbs is balanced by what sounds like a bassoon stating the melody. The theme from Bullitt is lifted by the jazzy atmosphere the arrangement generates, the use of Latin-American percussion and some exciting alto sax soloing. And Lalo Schifrin's Mannix has good solos from trumpeter Albert Hall and tenorist Keith Bird.

Many tracks use the dominant jazz-rock rhythm of the period, which suits the assertive nature of most of the tunes. Sadly, the personnels are not given - although the soloists are credited for the second of the two LPs - but Gregory used top-class session musicians and their pedigree is evident. Wally Stott's Looking-Glass War has radiant playing from trumpet and saxophone, while Shaft uses echoing flute and juddering guitar to catch the mood of the film. Hawaii 5-0 has the requisite thudding drums, courtesy of Ronnie Verrell.

Because the soloists are listed for tracks 13 to 24, it is possible to praise Al Newman's unusual bass flute solo in A Man Called Ironside and his fiery alto solo in I Spy - although Harry Stoneham's organ sound is rather dated here and elsewhere.

I am not pretending that this is an out-and-out jazz album, as it was manifestly made to appeal to a wide audience of filmgoers and TV watchers. But it proves that John Gregory could fashion arrangements which were more interesting and diverse than many other big-band arrangers. And the sound quality - remastered from the original analogue tapes - is splendid.

Tony Augarde



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