Mac Chrupcala: One More for the Road
Artist: Mac Chrupcala
Title: One More for the Road
Label: CD Baby
Product Type: COMPACT DISCS
ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD So much in jazz comes down to choices, often made on the fly: the choices of tunes, of rhythms, of notes to play - or not play - to make a solo really soar. Then there is the choice of band mates, the key ingredient in the jazz equation. Pianist Mac Chrupcala, an excellent and distinctive player with deep roots in the northeastern United States, wanted his latest project to be challenging - and funky. So he called in two jazz masters on their respective intruments. Bassist Jim Cammack in May 2012 wound up a 29-year gig in Ahmad Jamal's band. Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie is the undisputed dean of funk drumming. His extensive affiliations as a studio and touring drummer range from Aretha Franklin, James Brown and King Curtis to Tom Jones and Steely Dan. Chrupcala has a propulsive, energetic style. His groove is not unlike that of the late Oscar Peterson. Adding Cammack and Purdie resulted in a dream trio - and a recording unlike anything Chrupcala has done in the past. 'When we got to the studio I told them, 'This is going to be a true trio endeavor - so let's think that way. It's not two guys accompanying a piano player,'' Chrupcala said. Much like a live gig, they came up with most of the tunes on the fly. The material includes so-called standards not visited often by most of today's jazz singers and instrumentalists, as well as a couple of unexpected rock standards that the trio turned into funky jazz instrumentals. The opening track, 'Summertime,' has been overdone by most of today's jazz singers, but in the right hands is a powerful vehicle for instrumental improvisation. This eight-minute exploration is one of those rare instances. It's got a soul groove from the opening notes and builds to a wild ending. Chances are darned good that you'll never hear a version like this. The trio gives 'I Love Paris' a solid, straight-ahead swing treatment, filled with interesting accents and embellishments. In addition to the exchange of ideas, not Cammack's rock-solid timekeeping. His notes are always tasty and right on the beat, no matter the groove. Chrupcala's wife, Nancy Paolino, suggested the band include John Lennon's beautiful tune 'Imagine' in the session, and what a dandy it is. This version opens with reflective poignancy before the momentum builds. Cammack's interesting vocal-like solo is the elegant centerpiece here. You do not hear too many jazz bands exploring the Box Tops' 1960's rock hit 'The Letter' but doing so made sense here. Purdie was in the band when Joe Cocker did his classic cover version on the 1970 live album 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen.' Chrupcala & Co. Dig deep throughout this funky take. The leader included Henry Mancini's 'Two For the Road' because he always loved the 1967 British film starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, and it's breezy yet elegant theme song. The poignant take on Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer's 'I Remember You' is featured in memory of his brother, Cal Chrupcala, who passed away several years ago after a battle with bladder cancer. Cammack suggested they include Toots Theileman's classic instrumental 'Bluesette.' The trio imbues the waltz with more of a playful feel than the composer's somewhat mournful meditation. While best known as a harmonica player, Theilemans recorded the original version in 1961 on guitar and doubled with his whistling. Chrupcala's sprightly approach to the keyboard is in the spotlight here. The bass line dictated the trio's very open feel to Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'Meditation,' which features a double-time piano melody. Consider it a funk approach to the Bossa Nova. The Gershwin brothers' classic 'S'Wonderful' found it's way into the studio with no planning. Chrupcala says that Purdie and Cammack were fooling around with a groove at the start of a session before they'd even talked about specific tunes, and he quickly jumped in to add the melody in a very loose way. The result: a funk romp anchored by Purdie's thumping tom-tom beat. 'The rhythmic pulse is unbelievable,' Chrupcala said. Fortunately, engineer Steve Rizzo had his recording gear turned on. Barbra Streisand made the best-known vocal version of Billy Barnes's '(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair?' in 1963. It's a tune that Cammack had never played until this trio got together in early December 2012. It's an interesting tune in vocal or instrumental form, and the fresh approach by all three players results in a gorgeous cover. This splendid trio session winds down, ironically, with the session's lone solo track. Imagine Frank Sinatra singing his most-popular version of 'One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)' creating a vision of a guy alone in a bar late at night, having one last shot before heading out. Now think of it as a musician who feels like he's just getting warmed up as the crowd has filtered out and headed home. The other musicians are packing up, but he has to get one more tune out of his system. This is that tune, filled with both chops and soul. The company he was with this day had an impact on Chrupcala. Note how he funks it up more than a little at the mid-point. 'There was something about the magical groove this day,' he said. 'This was the funkiest session that I have ever been on and I mean that in a good way, Bernard and James linked up from the first note until the last note.' Once in a blue moon, a CD arrives that makes you pause and say 'wow.' One More for the Road is one of those rarities. -Ken Franckling, December 2012.
1.2 I Love Paris
1.4 The Letter
1.5 Two for the Road
1.6 I Remember You
1.10 Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?
1.11 One for My Baby and One More for the Road