Its true what is said about people that face adversity head on and overcome all obstacles put in front them; they come out of the other side stronger and with more conviction about their lives than ever before. Greg Chako, jazz guitarist and composer, is one of those special people. For a guitar player to have carpal tunnel syndrome is comparable to a singer losing their voice, it’s a fate worse than death. Chako actually stopped playing for a time then regrouped and moved to Singapore, healed his wounds, and began playing again. He found he could only use his thumb to play but realized very quickly that he liked the softer sounds using his thumb opposed to all of his fingers much better, so he stayed with it. What was once a disability instantly became a new found ability; much to the pleasure of Chako and his audience.
"Integration I & II" is the culmination of many studio hours, tremendous discipline, concentration, and the ability to employ all musical strengths in every composition. Chako says that "Integration" has a multi-purpose meaning. In terms of relating on a human level it refers to the four aspects of our being; spirit, emotion, intellect, and body. On a level concerning the music it’s relating to the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds found in Chako’s band. When was the last time you heard, if ever, the didgeridoo used in a contemporary jazz setting? I can’t say I ever have. I found it very complimentary, and it gives the music a distinctness and world feel to it without it taking anything away. Instead of dismantling the essence and core of a composition it enhances it. These two recordings are a jazz mosaic painted with the very best of cultural, ethnic, and musical sensibilities. That striking combination provides a sumptuousness and extensiveness in the music that is rarely found in any genre.
Whether it’s the Be Bop of "Funky Monkey" or the gentle acoustic flow of "Smooth Ride" ala Joe Pass, this collection of songs has something for everyone’s taste. Every jazz discipline, or parts thereof, is given an acknowledgement. Chako is up to the task on the electric or acoustic six-string, allowing the necessary elasticity for each song to build upon itself and congeal. After over 130 minutes of a trip around the jazz galaxy, I think it’s safe to say that Greg Chako and his magnificent band are one of the world’s best kept secrets. The word is now out; don’t hesitate in seeking out this essential jazz experience.