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Jazz Review : Triumph Of Style In Mangione Reunion

September 20, 1986|DON HECKMAN

Chuck and Gap Mangione, the Jazz Brothers, came roaring out of Upstate New York in the early '60s like an improvisational metaphor for the baby boom. Thursday night at Concerts by the Sea, they made a 25th anniversary effort to revive the innocent enthusiasms of that earlier band.

The energy was still there, propelled by the clockwork percussion of Adam Nussbaum and the down-home, let-it-all-hang-out tenor saxophone of Sal Nistico.

But the brothers themselves were surprisingly laid back, with fluegelhornist Chuck playing with a passivity that defied Nussbaum's most fervent efforts to bring the music to life.

Pianist Gap managed to develop a bit more heat, especially on his brother's soul-soaked "Hey, Baby." Yet, his solos, despite their barrage of right-hand frills and flourishes, were a triumph of style rather than substance.

The problem, one suspects, is that the Jazz Brothers, like the Monkees and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's Blues Brothers, created an on-the-surface popularization of a far denser form of music.

Listening to the Mangiones' set Thursday night, one heard traces of the Miles Davis groups of the '50s ("Secret Love"), Cannonball Adderly and Bobby Timmons' soul jazz ("Hey, Baby") and Art Blakey's hard bop ("What's Happening?"). But beneath the chameleon-like outer layer of the music there seemed to be nothing more than a sincere (and often successful) effort at mimicry.

Despite the lack of musical substance, however, the enthusiastic audience response suggested that the Jazz Brothers may be on to something. With '60s revivals in the wind these days, the Brothers, like the Monkees and the Beach Boys, just might get lucky and catch a wave.

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