"My guitar is my voice," Craig Chaquico says. "There's a time when you don't want songs with words where the singer tells you exactly what to think. You want instrumental music that sparks your imagination and feelings."
And that's just what Chaquico did on his first two best-selling and award-winning Higher Octave albums, Acoustic Highway and the Grammy-nominated "Acoustic Planet." The former lead guitarist of the legendary Jefferson Startship has reinvented himself as a leader of the fast-growing pop instrumental music field.
Music he originally created as a personal gift for his wife and baby became two back-to-back #1 albums that dominated Billboard's New Age chart and radio airplay.
Now Chaquico offers his most intimate and personal statement in "A Thousand Pictures." This time he journeys inward to his most deep and intimate feelings in new compositions driven by his inviting melodies. The album title comes from his belief that "if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a melody is worth a thousand pictures."
Not that Chaquico has radically changed his style. His ever-present melodic sense is at the core of every new song. Chaquico relates that, "Grace Slick says my songs don't need words, now I get to tell the story in the language of music."
"A Thousand Pictures" is rooted in rock, with Chaquico's acoustic guitar artistry floating on a very electric rhythm section. His instrument of choice is a Signature Series guitar Chaquico helped design for Washburn International, and which makes its recording debut on "A Thousand Pictures."
"For this album I wrote a poem for each song to give the listeners an idea to lead them into their own imaginary world," Chaquico says. "One of my strongest memories is of my third grade teacher who had us close our eyes, then played Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf,' and said only that it was about a wolf hunt. 'Now take it from there, and use your imagination,' she told us. And you've got thirty kids, each with his own story inspired by the same piece of music.
"I see my music like that. People use their imaginations to create their own story. There are elements of adventure, romance, the environment, endangered animals in all of my albums. I can give them a vision, but then they can draw upon their own experience."
"A Thousand Pictures" continues along the path blazed by its two predecessors. As Chaquico, explains, "The first two albums were more like travelogues, and this one is more about feelings and relationships, which are the real heart of life."
The music for 1993's "Acoustic Highway" came out of playing acoustic guitar at home for his then-pregnant wife Kimberly, and then for their infant son Kyle.
It was a major change of life for Chaquico. From 1974 to 1990, while other musicians came and went, he was the only musician on every Starship album and tour, writing many of the songs and helping the group collect more than a dozen gold and platinum albums as well as Grammy and Academy Award nominations.
"At the end, after so many changes in the lineup, the band had lost that synergy and direction, so I left, thinking maybe I'd start another rock band. But then I rediscovered acoustic guitar, and it took me on a new trip, down the Acoustic Highway. That album was an expression of the natural environment around me in Northern California: Mt. Tamalpais, the redwoods, jogging on the ocean beach, riding my motorcycle. It's calm and lush."
"It was also my discovery that this music I was making just for myself expressed feelings that other people wanted to hear. So the next step was Acoustic Planet, the result of going on tour, so it's more global in themes."
"A Thousand Pictures is a turn toward my inner feelings, but it explores more of the jazz side of contemporary instrumental music. A quality that developed as I worked with jazz musicians on the road this past year, especially saxophonist Richard Elliot, who plays on two of the album's tunes."
The brightly upbeat opening track, 'Sweet Talk,' features Elliot's distinctive saxophone, and leads into 'Why The Dolphin Smiles.'
'Navajo Stars' combines romance and environmental issues-Chaquico imagines a couple riding out to the desert at night and appreciating the natural beauty, as well as contemplating the wisdom of Native Americans for living, like the dolphins, in harmony with the planet.
'We Rode The Wind' was inspired by an invitation from former bandmate Grace Slick to visit her in her new home in Los Angeles, and equates the touring rock band experience with a band of Old West cowboys who finally ride off in different directions, "but you always stay so close that if you ever need a place to stay, or a meal or a fresh horse, you can count on each other."
"A Thousand Pictures" is the most refined statement from an artist who has renewed his musical vision through acoustic music, one that has become a way for him to bring other concerns to life.
"I love being on a label that cares about higher consciousness and about the environment. Higher Octave uses recycled paper in its CD packaging, and they try to live lightly on this planet."
Chaquico associates with organizations and companies working to make a difference. While on his concert tours, one of his greatest pleasures is doing free performances at hospitals in cities set up by the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT). Through Chaquico's efforts, Remo donates hand instruments and Washburn International donates a guitar to each hospital. Also thanks to Craig's concern, for every Chaquico Signature Series guitar it makes, Washburn International has arranged to have a tree planted.
Chaquico's involvement with NAMT is his way of repaying a life-changing childhood experience, when he was hospitalized at the age of 12 with two broken arms and a broken leg after being hit by a drunk driver. An understanding doctor and supportive parents encouraged his desire to play his guitar as therapy.
Playing guitar become more than therapy. By the time he was in his early teens his Sacramento rock band Steel Wind was opening concerts for the just-launched Jefferson Starship, in which he also played guitar. Soon Chaquico was the Starship's permanent guitarist, adding not only firepower but melodic support that gave a distinctive instrumental sound to the band.
A child of the Sixties who went on to fame and fortune in one of the most popular rock bands of the Seventies and Eighties, Chaquico is now on a new musical road, but it is one that embodies concerns he has long held.
"A lot of the trappings of the Sixties may have faded," Chaquico says, "but the core of its philosophy exists today, in New Age music and in people who try to improve the quality of life and go to a higher level. And that's what I strive for with my music."
"A Thousand Pictures" reaches that higher level with Chaquico's most imaginative
melodies delivered with one of the most distinctive guitar styles in contemporary music.
Once In A Blue Universe (7105)
Craig Chaquico (cha-key-so), whose first three solo albums earned him numerous awards including a Grammy® nomination, Best Pop Instrumental Guitarist (Guitar Player Magazine), and Billboard's #1 Independent Adult Alternative Album of the Year, returns with the romantic and soulful Once In A Blue Universe. Combining jazz and rock influences, the former Jefferson Starship guitarist is joined by some of today's top instrumental performers: Richard Elliot, John Klemmer, Dave Koz, Douglas Spotted Eagle, 3rd Force, & Peter White.
Acoustic Highway (7050)
Craig's stunning instrumental debut was Billboard's #1 Independent Adult Alternative / New Age Album of the year! This album reveals his mature and refined style, combining exuberant rock grooves with richly varied melodies and consummate musicianship. Called "passionate, romantic and sensual," this album launched Craig's solo career.
Acoustic Planet (7070)
Craig Chaquico, former lead guitarist of Jefferson Starship, rocks gently on a top-selling, Grammy nominated album that takes acoustic guitar to a new level of artistry. The music to fuel your next road trip, "Acoustic Planet" cruises through a rich landscape of shimmering chords that flow into irresistible rhythms. A great artist brings us home to the harmonies at the heart of music and nature.
A Thousand Pictures (7084)
Craig Chaquico's third album features passionately sculpted melodies, soaring guitar leads and compelling rhythms. He is joined on several track by saxophonist Richard Elliot as he explores jazzy new territory.