Album Review: Alan Chang – Check Please

Few journeys are as intriguing as those of the individuals behind the curtains, the ones who drive the creativity yet stay out of the limelight. Alan Chang, best recognized for his long-standing association with Michael Bublé, is a name that resonates in the music industry as a co-creator of some of the most memorable tracks of the past two decades. With “Check Please,” his debut solo album, Chang emerges from the shadows and strides confidently into the center stage, showcasing his profound depth as an artist.

Kicking off with “Natalie Explain,” the album starts on an electrifying note. The song is filled with infectious grooves, giving listeners a glimpse into Chang’s multifaceted musical world. It’s an entrée that stirs up anticipation for what’s to come. Following this is the already popular “Love As A Weapon,” where Chang deftly combines jazz overtones with contemporary vibes. With its sultry beats and a memorable chorus, it’s easy to see why this is the lead single. “Let’s Not Come Down,” the third track, is another tour de force. Radiating a smooth, contemplative aura, it’s a testament to Chang’s versatility and a beautiful end to what could be seen as the album’s impressive opening trilogy.

While the record starts off with a bang, it doesn’t mean the latter songs are any less compelling. “Rest of My Life” exudes a slower, introspective energy, perhaps alluding to Chang’s journey and self-realization during his transition from Bublé’s right-hand man to a solo artist. “Only Sight” and “Ms Finicky” carry the middle part of the album, both serving as clear indications of Chang’s deep-rooted jazz sensibilities. These tracks pay homage to his beginnings, his childhood love for the genre, and the countless hours he spent honing his craft on the keys.

The star-studded ensemble shines, especially with Pino Palladino’s bass riffs syncing harmoniously with Chang’s keys, while Dave Koz’s sultry saxophone adds a layer of elegance to the album, evident in tracks like “Aperitif.”

“Set Me Free” is a lyrical gemstone. There’s a hint of autobiography here, potentially reflecting Chang’s own journey, his ‘amicable divorce’ from Bublé, and his newfound freedom to express his authentic musical identity. “Favorite Of The Gods” stands out with its unique charm, while the closing track, “Wander,” acts as a poignant full stop to the album. It feels like Chang’s sign-off, a promise of more to come, and a note of gratitude for the journey so far.

A recurring theme in “Check Please” seems to be introspection. Chang’s work is an exploration of his personal and musical identity. While he admits lyricism sometimes feels like a “homework assignment,” it’s evident he has poured his heart into this project. Each song is a piece of Chang, a snippet of his life and his musings, infused with his passion for the piano.

For longtime jazz aficionados and fresh listeners alike, “Check Please” serves as a masterclass in modern jazz-pop fusion. The album’s 30-minute run time feels neither too short nor overbearing, making it a concise but deeply satisfying experience.

To sum it up, “Check Please” isn’t just an album; it’s Alan Chang’s soul laid bare, encapsulating his growth as an artist and his deep, unwavering love for jazz. It’s a testament to Chang’s brilliance, demonstrating that while he might have been a force behind Bublé, he’s a dynamo in his own right. Chang’s debut establishes him not as a background player but as a central figure in contemporary jazz, and one can’t help but eagerly await his next act.

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