LINER NOTES FOR CHUCK WAYNE'S “TAPESTRY” RECORDING
Chuck Wayne is one of the all time greats ever to play the jazz guitar! His magnificent playing is presented here in one of his most impressive efforts on record. Chuck has received much praise and credit from the music critics but his contemporaries and playing partners truly knew the full genius that was his. Chuck was one of the real pioneers of the post- Christian era. Along with Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, Billy Bauer, Oscar Moore, Johnny Smith and a few others, Chuck blazed a trail in jazz guitar that sounds as modern and fresh today as it did forty years ago. Chuck first became known from his work with George Shearing in the late 40’s as well as “Dizzy” Gillespie, Woody Herman, Red Norvo, and Tony Bennett. Chuck’s playing in these groups was unbelievable. To see and hear him on video makes me shake my head in admiration. Pure smooth bop with the most melodic sense you’ve ever heard. He’d be able to play the most complicated Shearing lines on the guitar with complete ease.
Chuck’s mastery of the instrument was legendary. Every facet of guitar playing he had thought out and put to the best possible use. The picking technique he used, called “alternate consecutive,” enabled him to play arpeggios and scales with the least amount of motion and with maximum relaxation. When I first saw Chuck play, his pick hand reminded me of a spider crawling up and down from one string to another and back again! It was beautiful to watch. His fret hand stayed so close to the fingerboard that you almost thought he wasn’t playing at all. That’s how easy it looked. When I transcribed some of his solos, I realized how difficult it was to play them. Till this day I can’t believe he was able to play like that.
Chuck’s harmonic concepts were also very organized and thoughtful. His idea of four-part harmony in block chords was quite stunning. Especially remarkable was the way he played with pick and fingers together to get such an airy and piano- like sound. Listen to “Round Midnight”, “Lady’s Love Song”, and “Satin Doll” for an example of this wonderful technique. Chuck’s composing skills are evident here, as he penned four of the tunes. It’s funny but many people didn’t realize how prolific he was as a writer. Chuck was always fascinated with the classical guitar and studied and practiced for years. His approach to the nylon string guitar was essentially the same as with the pick. It was a sight to see how he amazingly played “alternate, consecutive” strokes with his fingers. This classical study you can hear on spots such as his intro to “Softly” with two lines at once, the quote from “Danse Espagnol” by Granados where he plays the melody to “My Favorite Things”, and the intro to “Greensleeves” where he plays the six string banjo, no less!
In the original liner notes to the Focus record Chuck says, “The banjo is pretty ridiculous, but when you can play it like a guitar and get that funky sound, it’s a different story” (no offense to banjo lovers). In Chuck’s hands the banjo is anything but ridiculous. Actually Chuck’s first instrument was the mandolin but he soon gravitated towards the guitar.
However, this is bio-material and many people can put together impressive credentials. The truth is, when you heard and saw him play, it was beyond words! His respect for the melody and his deep romanticism touched many people.
Few people today had the opportunity to see Chuck playing at his peak. This CD, “Morning Mist” (on Prestige Records), “Foremost Guitars”, “String Fever” (recently re-issued), and “Interactions’ among others are all great examples of this gifted player.
I consider myself to be very lucky to have seen and played with Chuck when he was at his peak and most relaxed in a jam session in Brooklyn in the late 60’s. My good friend Carl Barry was a friend of Chuck’s and was part of this session when it first began. Carl invited me to play one night and I was as nervous as at any time of my musical life. To play in front of Chuck scared me half to death but he was kind and almost Guru-like (in a real way). He was never pompous nor did he play the role of superior player. One night Carl and I were playing and when Chuck arrived, he was really taken with our spirit and interplay. He was so open and friendly with no feeling of competition that it made me aware of the fact that Chuck was first and foremost a “mensch” and then a great player who loved music.
I’m very proud to have been asked by Chris Burden to write these notes and apologize for my lack of skills in that department and hope the feeling of my affection for Chuck comes across. Special thanks to Chris for re-issuing this great record and to Diane Wayne for her dedication, care, and love for Chuck and his music that made this CD possible. You’re the best, Diane!
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Liner Notes Chuck Wayne "Tapestry"