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Craig Chaquico - Midnight Noon Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 September 2004
Image Craig Chaquico was once the lead guitarist for Jefferson Starship, but you won’t hear a whole lot of polished hard rock riffs, like those popularized by that AOR radio staple band, on this mostly jazz-oriented project, Midnight Noon. Chaquico may have built his former city on rock ‘n’ roll, but this current, less obtrusive village is founded upon much simpler and purer materials.

In many cases, Chaquico plays off of his saxophonist Kevin Paladini and his keyboardist/producer Ozzie Ahlers to create subtle moods. Ahlers’ Booker T.-like organ fills, for instance, give “Her Boyfriend’s Wedding” a breezy feel, whereas Paladini’s sax work turns “Dream Date” into something semi-funky. There is also a distinct Latin vibe running throughout this release. The most obvious example of this influence occurs on “El Gato,” since Chaquico anchors it with acoustic Spanish guitar. But one can also pick up on Latin elements with “Dia del Zorro,” which was inspired by that famous adventure hero, and with “Outlaw in the City” as well.

Chaquico has a lot of stylistic cards in his hand, but he turns to swinging jazz for the retro fit of “Bobby Sox,” and then includes the nice touch of female vocals (by April Hendrix) on “Always With You.” One cannot question Chaquico’s melodic originality here, save for the tune of “Dia del Zorro,” which comes just a little too close to the hook of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy.”
Although Chaquico plays mostly amplified jazz-fusion music, his sound is nevertheless well suited for the SACD treatment utilized here. Standard CDs are criticized, and rightly so, for sometimes being on the cold side. And jazz-fusion, by its very nature, is oftentimes a little too precise and chilly. So artists like Chaquico need all the warming-up help they can get.

As stated above, Chaquico’s melodies are mostly unique. But his chosen style of crisp, clean jazz is not exactly groundbreaking. Granted, almost anything Chaquico creates now as a solo artist is better than the corporate slop associated with his Starship stay. But Midnight Noon is just a little too technical and not nearly emotional enough. Chaquico praises Jim Hendrix in the liner notes here, for instance, yet that pivotal artist’s influence doesn’t seem to have rubbed off any. Perhaps, to paraphrase one of Hendrix’s hit songs, Chaquico needs to stand for a while next to the older artist’s fire.

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