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Bill Chase-A Moment in Music History
Bill Chase was a jazz trumpeter with few peers. Born in Boston, in 1934, and educated at Berklee school of music, he did not begin his career at the bottom. He started with none other the the immortals known as Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson. Adding a stint with Woody Herman to his resume during the 1960s, he was on the fast track to success.Like Maynard Ferguson, extreme upper register solos were a mainstay with Chase. It did not take long for him to develop a following.
In 1970, Bill Chase formed the band Chase. The idea was to fuse jazz with rock and roll. In 1971 they succeeded with their debut album, also called Chase. The most famous song from this album, "Get It On", showcased the four man trumpet section and the vocal talents of lead singer Terry Richards. This song remained on the charts for thirteen weeks, beginning in May, 1971, and earned the band a Grammy nomination for best new artist.
Bill Chase- Get It On
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In 1972, they released their second album, Ennea. Their trademark brassy sound was better blended with the rest of the band on this outing, and they introduced a new lead vocalist, named G.G. Shinn. This album was more heavily jazz influenced than their first. In fact side two was called Ennea suite, and was entirely comprised of jazz arrangements.
With the exception of one song, "So many people", Ennea did not receive much radio love, at all. In the end, they didn't even approach the 400,000 units that their first album sold.
In 1974 they releasd their third and final album. Called, by many, their most commercial album, Pure Music was more jazz than rock. This one seems to have fallen into relative obscurity. Few people with whom I discuss music, have heard of this album, or the band, for that matter.
Shortly after the release of Pure Music, Chase began work on their fourth album, but it would never be completed. On August 9th, 1974, while en route to a performance in Minnesota, their plane crashed. Killed in the crash, were Bill Chase, keyboardist Wally Yohn, guitarist John Emma, and drummer Walter Clark. In a single moment, the tightest horn section ever assembled was silenced. A loss that is mourned, to this day, by trumpet players and jazz enthusiasts everywhere.
Among the songs that I hold dear, are "Get it on", "Boys and girls together", and an unforgettable cover of Manfred Mann's "Handbags and Gladrags".
In a prophetic twist of irony, the name of the first track on their first album was "Open Up Wide", and the last track on their third album was "Close Up Tight". In 1977, after period of mourning, the surviving band members released an album called "Watch Closely Now", in tribute. Sadly, without the mastery of Bill Chase, "Close Up Thight" was to remain the final word on the jazz-rock fusion experiment that was Chase.