Both artists this week have links to Faith No More. Eddie Chacon played in a band with FNM drummer Mike Bordin and Cliff Burton as an adolescent. Shahzad Ismaily has played bass with Trey Spruance in Secret Chiefs 3. But confounding, neither record has much to do with rock – read on for details….
Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily
Love in Exile
I didn’t quite get into Arooj Aftab’s previous album, Vulture Prince, in time for it to make my 2021 best album list. She became the first Pakistani musician to win a Grammy, and made it onto Barack Obama’s playlist.
Aftab’s back in tandem with two other musicians from diverse spheres. Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer is on the ECM label, while Shahzad Ismaily has a wide-ranging portfolio, playing bass with Trey Spruance in Secret Chiefs 3, producing, and dabbling in ambient music.
Together the three have created a 7-track, 75-minute album. It’s improvised, although the trio prefer to call it co-constructed. They’ve played together as a trio a few times over the years – their first performance was in 2018 – but they entered the studio for Love in Exile without pre-planned ideas.
Aftab’s soulful singing, her biggest drawcard, is only featured sparingly – she told grammy.com that she’s not there 90% of the time. If you’re checking out this record because of Aftab’s involvement, you may wish to stick to her solo records. I enjoy Iyer and Ismaily’s interplay and pretty noodling, but it’s largely like a jazz record where a star vocalist happens to drop in occasionally.
Love in Exile is pretty, but it’s more a pleasant diversion than a fully-fledged masterpiece.
Eddie Chacon’s first band was Fry By Nite – a trio formed with his childhood friends Cliff and Mike. Impossibly, all three went on to success in different bands – Cliff Burton became the bass player for Metallica, while Mike Bordin has drummed for Faith No More throughout their career. Chacon didn’t follow his bandmates into rock – he worked as a songwriter before joining forces with Charles Pettigrew. The pair met on the subway, one of them holding a copy of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man. As Charles & Eddie, the pair enjoyed a worldwide hit with 1992’s ‘Would I Lie To You?’
Charles & Eddie folded after an unsuccessful second album – Pettigrew passed away in his thirties from cancer, while Chacon stepped away from the music industry for a long while. He restarted his musical career when he was introduced to John Carroll Kirby, a producer who has worked with popular alt R&B acts like Solange and Frank Ocean. The pair worked on Chacon’s first solo album, 2020’s Pleasure, Joy and Happiness. They reconvened for Chacon’s sophomore effort, released on the cusp of 60.
In 2021, Eddie Chacon and John Carroll Kirby decamped to Ibiza for two weeks. There, they rented the island’s only Fender Rhodes from one of the local rave crews. John posted it against the plaster walls and concrete floors of their temporary home, which was set into a green hillside overlooking a beach called Siesta. As they worked on Sundown, Pharoah Sanders’s “Greeting to Saud” was a daily listen. Instead of emulating its sound, Eddie absorbed its deeper lesson – that simplicity wins out over virtuosity every time.https://eddiechaconofficial.bandcamp.com/album/sundown
Sundown is rich in 1970s textures – Chacon has talked about The Delfonics as a formative influence. ‘Holy Hell’ provides an uptempo moment, rare in this restrained and relective record. It contrasts with the languid gorgeousness of songs like ‘Step by Step’ and ‘Sundown’, filled with elegant flutes and Fender Rhodes. Chacon’s voice is agile yet weathered – even his falsetto has a trace of grit.
Chacon’s reemergence is one of the most unexpected comebacks of the decade, but he’s welcome.