Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
If Chuck Mangione were a boxer instead of a jazz man, critics would type him as a good fighter with adequate technique but without the heart to move up in class to the heavyweights.
Which is fine, because his music, metronomic and uninspiring as it is, sound good, seems well constructed and asks little of an audience beyond endurance.
Magione, a journeyman flugelhornist who has opted to play more and more electric piano, is a clever composer. Ultimately, through, there is so little life in his compositions that one could well imagine competent musicians sight reading them from one player to another.
A typical Mangione composition leaves little room for improvisation; worse, it seems so confined that one starts to look for a spark, a hint of a challenge.
But there is little battling within Mangione's quintent, which is somewhat reminiscent of the later day Modern Jazz Quartet. In fact, mangione's piano playing retains the MJQ sound, though one hears more of vibist Milt Jackson than John Lewis.
To his credit, Mangione is able to come up with jazz "hits" and his set Sunday night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion was full of favourites like "Hill Where the Lord Hides," "Legand of the One Eyed Sailor." "Ballavia" and "Soft." The last is an apt description of the music.
Like a boxer, Mangione surrounds himself with good corner men. Infact his current group, the most frequently heard voice belongs to saxophonist/flautist Chris Vadala, whose superb tone and versatility mark him as a worthy sparring partner.