"Where We Find Ourselves" The CD Story and History
by Greg Chako

For years, I led a trio for a steady 6 night a week gig at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. I played all the classic jazz standards and improvised on them. Some people believed I was not a full-fledged artist, because I did not compose my own music, but I felt my improvisations were creative and expressive, and I never doubted myself as a unique stylist. In 1996, I composed some songs and included them on my 2nd CD, "Sudden Impact". That CD combined my originals with latin interpretations of standard songs. But soon, I was ready to make CD's of only my own music. In 2000, I was happily married to my Japanese wife, Takako Saito, playing jazz nightly, and finally, I released 2 CD's with only my own music on them, "Integration" and "Integration II". These CD's were the proud, pinnacle of my creative expression at the time. I was writing a lot of music, and had some songs that were not yet recorded. I was anxious to record more. But by 2002, my happy life circumstances were about to change, event ually leading me to Japan, and through a 4 year composing/recording drought.

In 2002, I lost my 7 year long steady gig. I still performed regularly, but not nightly. The same year I was offered a nightly playing job leading a great, all-American quartet in China, featuring Donald Jackson, Jack Holland, and Dee Dee McNeil. The local Shanghai papers called us the best jazz band to play in China. During this period I composed nothing, just played nightly. When SARS attacked China in 2003, my wife Takako and I were making plans to come to Japan. It was during this period that I first contacted Mark Tourian, the bassist in my current band.

While we were playing in China, we were visited by a female Japanese pianist from Yokohama named Yuko Shirota, who was traveling there and had come in to see some jazz. That night we met, talked, and even played some together. I asked her to give me the names of some musicians from Japan who I could talk to. She gave me 3 or 4 names, one of whom was Mark Tourian. So, Mark and I communicated on the phone and by email before I arrived in Japan.

Arriving in Japan June of 2004, my wife Takako was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. She could not work and was soon hospitalized. I had no job, no Japanese language skills, no drivers license, and very little money. For the next 2 years, my life was all but consumed with cancer and taking care of my wife. I had no time for music, though I was desperate to get back into it. The musicians I had contacted through Shirota-san were helpful with information about the music scene here in Japan, and they helped spread news of my situation. One musician who found out about me was Bruce Huebner, a flautist. He called, and suggested we meet and talk over coffee.

It was during this meeting with Bruce that I learned of Andy Bevan and Robbie Belgrade, two more members of my current band. Their names were introduced to me because of their experience with World Music, and in particular, because of Andy's didgeridu playing. My earlier releases had tabla and didgeridu on them, and I didn't expect to find people that played these instruments in Japan. Bruce gave me their phone numbers and I called them. We agreed to meet and play together, and we've been playing together ever since.

Bruce Huebner also organized a benefit concert for my dying wife in March of 2004 at B-Flat in Akasaka. Many musicians came to play and support us, and each other. The money was given to my wife and I to help pay for expenses. Though I couldn't attend because I was with my wife at the hospital, I was given a tape of the show with the names of those who played. In that way, I met other musicians that were to be helpful to me. One was Australian pianist/singer, Julianne Spicer, who highly recommended the singer on my CD, Kaleb James. Kaleb had performed at the benefit concert too. Another musician who was helpful with contacts was Rick Vogel, who had briefly met me in Singapore when he and I were on the same gig for the American Associations' annual George Washington ball. When he learned I would be in Japan, he spread the word about a good guitar player moving here, so I got some gigs and met some new people because of him.

I still had not met my drummer/percussionist, Mark DeRose. His name and number was given to me by Rick and some other musicians. But when I called him, he was never there. Actually, what had happened is that his number had changed, so for weeks I was trying to reach him at the wrong number. He found out I was trying to reach him from some other musicians, and he called me one day to introduce himself. That is how we met.

The final member, Pat Hallaran, was introduced to me by my other band members. He had just recently moved here, so he was as anxious to play as I, and he wasn't so busy (yet) that he couldn't commit some time to our project.

Meeting and playing with DeRose and Hallaran was the thing that most solidified our band as a unit. Prior to meeting them I had a few gigs and some of my music was being played, but we could never be sure who the players would be. Once these six musicians played our first gig together late in 2004, I decided I finally had a group that could record. I had about 8 songs or so that were written but unrecorded, and I began writing some new material in 2004. I composed about 7 new songs between June 2004 and Feb 2005.

Since I was basically off the music scene because of my personal life situation, and because I hadn't recorded for 4 years, I was feeling desperate to get the music I'd been holding inside of me out. The only way to do that was to record again. At first, we band members talked about recording in Japan with our own equipment, but that involves very complex and unpredictable planning. I still had unfinished business in Singapore, and some personal effects that had to be brought to Japan. More importantly, in Singapore there was a studio called Lion Studios, run by a very gifted recording engineer named John Herbert. This studio was very comfortable to record in, and John was the best engineer I knew. He had recorded, mixed and mastered three of my previous CD's. I knew if I could get the other musicians to agree to travel to Singapore with me, I could feel more confident about the recording process and the final results. And of course, everything is much, much cheaper outside Japan!

It was difficult to arrange, but everyone agreed to try recording in Singapore. The biggest problem was a lack of time. Most of the band members had to return to Japan quickly due to other family and professional commitments. So, we had more than 14 songs and only 4 days to record them. Fortunately, my drummer and percussionist, Mark DeRose, was able to stay longer, so we recorded 14 full band tracks during the four days, and did the percussion overdubs the following week over another couple days. I stayed another week to oversee the printing, mixing and mastering. The final master was completed with only John and I in the studio, only hours before my return flight to Japan, and celebrated with Tequila and a tearful goodbye to an old friend.

Next, all I had to do was wait in Japan for delivery of the finished product, which ironically was to take longer than the recording! I am happy with the results, but one always wishes we had done better, or had more time, etc... In the end, I am most satisfied that I can now hear on CD the music that was previously only in my head. At some point in 2004, I imagined the title, "Where We Find Ourselves", because here I was in Japan, after so much had been taken away from me (my wife passed away July 29th 2004), wondering what I was going to do now, and how I was to survive my loss. The title track was the last and most difficult one for me to compose.

I want the music in "Where We Find Ourselves" to express where I am now, and where I find myself, in ways words cannot.

Jazz musicians are a small but tight-knit crowd, and we love to talk and share stories. So almost always, things happen and people meet because of this talking and sharing with one another. That's how we all met and came to play together. There are some other people who were helpful to me in Japan, and they are named and thanked in the liner notes of my CD. Saying thank you is very important to me, and we musicians could not do what we do without the mutual support and enthusiasm of each other, and our fans. My biggest goal and desire is to have my music shared with and listened to by more and more people, and to have the opportunity to write, record, and play live, more and more!

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