Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chuck Mangione, "Feels So Good" (1977)

Typically this hit instrumental is thought of as 70s AM pap, on a level with "Feelings" or "I Really Want To See You Tonight," and that's fair I suppose: it's catchy and overplayed, with no evident purpose apart from entertaining, plus it has that disco climbing bass bit. But I find the piece interesting for a couple of reasons: One, it's an extremely long melody, going on for about a minute before it repeats. According to some sheet music I found online, it's a 23-bar composition, so not up there with "Unchained Melody" but lengthy compared to your usual 16-bar A section, which usually repeats a four-bar phrase in there somewhere. That's not to say it's complex, because it's at a moderate tempo and can be whistled by practically anybody who was alive in 1977. But it is compelling... I find myself running through the whole melody in my head whenever I hear or think of the opening held notes.

The other odd feature is that Mangione doesn't solo: he states the theme at the beginning (twice on the album version), after the rest of the band solos he states it again, and then after a noodling coda (again, cropped from the 7") we're done. If you're thinking the leader lays out to spotlight his ace band, listen again: they each lollygag through the changes in horrendous clichéd fashion. So why doesn't he play? Because it's not a lead & chord progression to be improvised on, it's a piece to be played straight through. (Not every jazz piece lends itself to improvisation - Monk's "Crepescule With Nellie" springs to mind, and I'm sure some of the Ellington chamber work fits too - but they're the exceptions; they also develop rather than repeat.) To put it another way, the tune is excellent pop but terrible jazz, and if you care about the difference (not that you necessarily should), you can find it on this cut. (DBW)