Greg Chako is one of those musicians who has been inexorably pulled into a professional jazz career despite numerous obstacles in his personal life as well as his own attempts to chase other dreams. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Chako's first formal exposure to music came in the form of accordion lessons at the age of nine. Fortunately for us, the star power of Jimmy Hendrix drew him toward the guitar, which he quickly adopted as his voice for musical expression. After studying at the Berklee College of Music for a few years, Chako gigged sporadically until leaving music altogether to become an industrial real estate broker in New York. But the jazz muse beckoned and he returned to playing guitar until carpel tunnel syndrome nearly forced him to quit; he adapted by learning to play with his thumb instead of a pick. A move to Hong Kong in the early 1990s gave Chako the platform to pursue jazz full time. He has remained in Asia ever since, moving from Hong Kong to Singapore (were he had a long stint leading his own trio at the famous Raffles Hotel), then China, and finally to Japan.
The music on Chako's self-produced Paint a Picture, Tell a Story is pleasant club jazz. It never completely surprises but yet doesn't disappoint; it never gets white-hot but still keeps you warm. Offering six Chako originals along with a few standards (and an undiscovered tune called "Next" written by Basie flutist/saxman Frank Wess) , there is enough variation in tempo and style to keep the record interesting. "Hurry Up and Wait," one of the Chako originals, is an illustrative highlight because it shifts back and forth between up-tempo bop and slow blues, reflecting Chako's experience with gigs in Japan which seem to vascilate between rushing around and sitting around.
Chako's guitar playing on this record is purposeful and especially warm for two reasons: the unusual use of his thumb instead of a pick, and because he favors the lower register of the instrument. There is no effort to dazzle here, no guitar wizardry; as the CD title suggests, Chako's goal is always to say something with his solos (and compositions), not prove something. The result is jazz without any sharp edges, eminently listenable, ready to enjoy right out of the box.