Musicians who have had consistent popular success face a dilemma: In concert they usually don't have the time to play everything their fans want to hear. Of course, depending on your perspective, that's a good problem to have.
Such was the case Thursday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, where flugelhornist Chuck Mangione and his band relied heavily on material from the mid-to-late 1970s -- which his fans probably know best -- during a show that lasted about an hour and a half.
Mangione opened up with three familiar tunes from his 1976 "Main Squeeze" release -- "Love the Feeling," "Doin' Everything With You" and the jam that became the title track (and which served as his closer before "Feels So Good"). Virtually all of his material is very heartfelt and evocative; the middle tune, which modulated twice but returned to the original key, actually brought tears to my eyes.
Longtime saxophonist Gerry Niewood opened his soprano solo on "Land of Make Believe" with a line from Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," and Mangione even offered some comic relief in referring to injuries suffered by bassist Kevin Axt in a recent motorcycle accident -- who was well enough to make the gig and slapped his way through "Fun and Games," the funkiest tune of the night.
Mangione has never been known for playing straight-ahead jazz; nevertheless, he paid tribute to his roots there with the bebop of "Dizzy Miles," which included an opening poem and vocal from drummer Dave Tull and a cappella solos from everyone in the ensemble, with Tull backing them. As expected, "Feels So Good," albeit a punchier version, became the encore.
At times, the delicate, almost flute-like sounds of Mangione's flugelhorn were overpowered by Niewood's saxophones while they were playing together, almost as if Niewood was playing the lead line and Mangione harmonizing. I think he also missed some notes as well, especially on "Give It All You Got." Despite the minor flaws, I wish Mangione had played some of his other, more obscure material, perhaps from his latest two albums.
Rick Nowlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871.