Beautiful Way

Born and raised in Rochester, NY in 1940, Charles Frank “Chuck” Mangione joined his brother Gaspare (Gap), at the Eastman School of Music in the late ‘50s.  While Gap studied piano, Chuck concentrated on the trumpet and in their spare time the two Mangiones released a number of records with their bop quintet, the Jazz Brothers.

Soon after graduation Chuck landed gigs with the big bands of Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  In 1968 he formed his own quartet, after switching over to the instrument that he once referred to as “the right baseball glove.”

Originally used on the battlefield to summon the flanks of an army, the German word flügelhorn literally means “wing” or “flank” horn. It resembles a trumpet but has a wider, conical bore and while some consider it to be a member of the “Saxhorn” family, as developed by Adolphe Sax (think saxophone), others hold that it actually descends from the valve bugle as developed by Michael Saurle of Munich.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that neither man foresaw the popularity of the flügelhorn in popular music (it figures into many of Burt Bacharach’s arrangements), particularly jazz, with such noted players as Woody Herman, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Hugh Maskela…and Chuck Mangione, who has recorded more than 30 albums.

Despite his ongoing critical acclaim, international success was a long time coming, finally arriving with that jazz-pop single that is sure to shepherd you back to 1977, “Feels So Good.” But Mangione actually won his first Grammy (Best Instrumental Composition) with the title track from a 1975 album that was dedicated to his parents, “Bellavia” (i.e. “beautiful way”).

Although he is said to have pretty much drifted away from the music scene in recent decades (his greatest “visibility” has been as a recurring character in the animated television series, King of the Hill), the 72 year-old Mangione occasionally makes appearances with his brother, Gap in and around their old hometown.


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