Album Review: "Chester Gorilla" (2020) by Chester Gorilla
"Chester Gorilla", the album sharing the name with that of the band, is a heterogeneous album of jazz-fusion and jazz-rock including different and distinct atmospheres from the great fusion sound of jazz. The album, recorded in Palerme of 2019 and released in 2020, is an end product of a path of a group, Chester Gorilla, founded in 2007, searching their identity of musical instinct in the great scene of jazz. The group takes a new form and starts there, from the underground, from the nights in the rehearsal rooms and where it has always been. The album includes six tracks, along with three talented guests accompanying the group. Have a listen and check out their website!
The first song of the album, Puippara, might be one of the finest and the soundest jazz fusion tunes released lately. The complexity in rhythm, harmony, and sheer instrumentation puts Puippara on the great list of pukka jazz fusion. The piece starts with a catchy melodic-rhythmic line, then quickly builds up to an entire sound of woodwind, drums, and guitars. The bass guitar heavily stands out in this first part with its wonderful melody, technique, and ability to highlight itself in-between the sound. While the bass guitar and the drums hold the sound together in this first part, flute, saxophone, and trumpet carry on with the chord progressions and the main melody. The latter part of the song is an aggregate of nicely and neatly organized, well-written solos from the guitar and the woodwind section. The solo from the saxophone includes a great improvisation skill, along with the bass and drums in the back, most definitely adding great volume to the sound. Then, the flute -a guest instrument for Chester Gorilla by Christian Manuk- wherein an exotic, different sense is brought -which in a sense all great jazz fusion tunes should include- by a great solo. Puippara ends with a reverse back to the intro, the same sound is created with a similar atmosphere, indicating an end to a journey of sheer fusion and jazz-rock.
The second track "Shesone" starts with a calm guitar and drum section, which sets up a nice and smooth transition to the piece. The highlight of the track is the guitar, which handles both the melody and the harmony. There is a nice contrast between "sections" within the track. The track consists of four sections: The slow, catch introduction, the fast-paced main body, a relatively slow-paced section with a good duet between the guitar and the drums, and the fast-paced main body again. These sections all share an overwhelming harmony that might feel uncomfortable to listen to for a long time, however with them brought together, the music doesn't allow the listener to get overwhelmed with the denseness of the harmony and repeated melody. The harmony and the melodic structures are all very "deep" in the way they get penetrated into your body. This makes it a perfect track to listen to with headphones to get away from all the hassles of life for a while. However, that same trait makes this piece unsuitable to be used as a piece of background music, since such deep harmonies laying in the background as your main focus isn't the music can be quite overwhelming. Overall, Shesone is a well-balanced track that one can get isolated from their surroundings and relax their mind for a while. Kudos to Chestergorilla for that.
3. Peter the Elephant
The third track "Peter the elephant" starts with natural ambient sounds, including the call of birds and elephants. The piano accompanies the animals, throwing some musical ideas to the listener. There is almost a call and response between the pianist and the elephants as some harmonic phrases are also introduced. Then the sound fades away and the groove enters. The lines are funky yet a bit sentimental in their essence. The bass interacts with the guitar perfectly throughout the song. You can gradually hear multiple claves - that will possibly remind you of Afrobeat music - from a really tight rhythmic arrangement. A bit later some spicy harmony leads us to another section of the journey. The performances are still incredibly tight yet the sound is not narrow. Those two factors usually work as oppose to each other, as the sound gets wider (floating) you tend to jeopardize the groove, but Chester Gorilla manages to put together a really strong composition while hitting sweet spots on the sound spectrum. This track is definitely among the most interesting ones in the project due to its high musicality that forms a narrative. I personally couldn't help but imagine an elephant named Peter walking around while vibing to his soundtrack.
4. Aripupollo Space
If jazz/funk music had a definition, it would be just two words: Aripupollo Space! Everything, from its intro to its spectacular ending, resembles elements from both the 30's jazz music and funk music. The music has a really catchy rhythm and melody, one that makes you want to stand up and dance at 1 AM at night. The track consists of all melody cleffs distinctly: The bass and the treble. The use of the bass in the background really lifts the feeling of the melody, which is mainly established with brass instruments. This adds the feeling of the 30's swingy jazz to the track and is one of the elements that make it a piece of very good dance music. That would be the right phrase for the track: Dance music. Every element of this track makes it comfortable to dance along, the distinct rhythm established by the drums, the "cool" atmosphere established with the guitar, and the really nice, enjoyable melody established by the brass instruments. All of those combined, this track is an excellent one for those who would like to dance or feel the atmosphere of the '30s with some inclusion of funk.
Bam! Guacamole hits you in the face with its opening riff just like that. It's like a Thank You Scientist track without all the distortion, still as expressive. The aggression quickly ends and we are left with a mind-boggling odd time lick by the guitar. You are again caught off guard as the drummer and the bassist do a very very nasty thing... Just check that part out... You will feel it... Then an equally nasty groove is established. It turns out the horns had more to say as they screech along with the polytonality. The voicings can just be described with the word "chonky". The track progresses a few more times while continuing to showcase new atmospheric and harmonic ideas constantly. Shoutout to the bassist and for being the glue for the sound with looping riffs. The drums are also very funky and The rest of the band just try their best to make the listener trip the hell out. After hearing many ideas we're back at the beginning with the odd looping riff. At this point, if the mid-sections made you lost track you'll have a musical deja vu. The mix is balanced perfectly through all the sections thanks to the composition and performances being already tight!
6. The Heat
The Heat the last song in the album, is a patchwork of different jazz sounds, atmospheres, and methods. The introduction, starting with a catchy rhythm, continues to develop with an additional element that is used only in this piece, vocals from a guest musician, Beercock. The atmosphere and the sound of jazz are austere, on-point, and following the extension of the vocal sound. Guitars, different rhythmic instruments make the sound complete until the sound changes to a different atmosphere of jazz: rapid and swift, reminding the listener of the bebop sound, but not quite. This sound also ceases abruptly and a transition into a more exotic, distinctive music is made with an alteration in instrumental choice and technique. This atmosphere continues to build into a much more complex sound, reminding the listener of the great world jazz tunes, with the addition of vocals again. Although the vocals may seem disjointed at first, this chaos builds up tension to make a haunting finale, to this great fusion album, Chester Gorilla.
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