Chris Colangelo – Elaine’s Song

Bassist and composer Chris Colangelo has recently released his CD Elaine’s Song on C-Note Records. The self-produced recording features Colangelo’s signature bass sound along with a world class supporting cast. Saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Zane Musa and Benn Clatworthy are each featured along with John Beasley on piano and Steve Hass on drums.

Chris Colangelo has been living, working and recording in Los Angeles for about the last 20 years or so. He hails from the Philadelphia area and got his start working in the casino music scene of Atlantic City before moving west. Over these many years Colangelo has been honing his skills as bassist and composer all the while playing with many of the finest jazz musicians L.A. has to offer.

I had the pleasure of working with Chris in more than one band out of Atlantic City where we worked 6 nights a week both in town and on the road. His dedication to his sound and musicality were apparent from our first meeting at the first rehearsal. They were great days when we were both cutting our teeth and trying to “break in” to a flourishing scene. I also remember when he met his then girlfriend Elaine at Trump Plaza – what a pleasure it is to know that they have three children and are married after all these years. Chris’ connection to his family was clear when I had the opportunity to spend time at his parents’ home years ago. That same dedication to family and his music is apparent from his “thank you” in the liner notes on Elaine’s Song.

From the first few notes of Beasley and Colangelo’s unison bass line on The Ubiquitous One it is clear the listener is in for a treat on Elaine’s Song. Beasley’s left hand and Colangelo’s acoustic set the energetic pace that then mellows a bit as the melody takes shape. Bob Sheppard’ tenor melody floats above the rhythm section then eventually digs in more as he works into the first solo. Ironically, Colangelo opts not to solo on his own following Beasley’s piano chorus and a reprieve from Sheppard. Nonetheless, his musicality and sound on bass shine through with every note he lays down for the rest of the ensemble.

Zane Musa shows off his ability to swing hard with drummer Steve Hass and Benn Clatworthy on the second track. However it is not until the third track, following Like Kenny (for Kenny Garret) that we get to hear Colangelo solo on acoustic bass. Here on Elaine’s Song his sound is pristine, fat and full. Colangelo’s bass lines are melodic, punctuated and beautifully complimented by Beasley’s piano and Hass’cymbals and rims of the drums. Sheppard’s tenor sound is classic and beautiful.

Green and Blue features Clatworthy on flute and the spirited Gryffindor’s Revenge features some great interplay by the trio of Colangelo, Beasley and Hass. Clatworthy's flute sound is vibrant and clear, yet his vibrato is understated likely by design. This makes for a unique sound on the instrument that fits well within the ensemble.

Watts Important (for Jeff “Tain Watts) adds tenor saxophone where the trio becomes a quartet again. Clatworthy explores the outer limits with some atonal lines, multiphonics and primal screams. This is definitely one of the more adventurous moments within this quartet setting. The tune vamps out with an impressive display by drummer Steve Hass.

The two songs not penned by Colangelo appear back to back as Steve’s Swallow’s Falling Grace and John Coltrane’s Straight Street. The bassist squarely takes the spotlight from the introduction of Falling Grace. It is a pleasure to hear the trio cover this ambitious classic. Another highlight is Bob Sheppard’s commanding soprano saxophone on the later.

Elaine’s Song wraps up with From Dark to Light with a tender and brooding ballad featuring Sheppard’s pensive tenor sax.

All in all, this outstanding release by Chris Colangelo is nothing less than I expected from this world class bassist and composer. He has surrounded himself with a cast of like-minded, talented musicians – among them some very impressive saxophonists.

You can find out more about Chris Colangelo at ChrisColangelo.com