Since his 1993 debut Acoustic Highway, Craig Chaquico's creative blending of snappy guitar melodies and subtle Native American textures has contributed something of a spiritual nature to smooth jazz. It's interesting to note, however, that as his fame as an instrumental star increased, he became a little more conscious of commercial considerations. The twelve "greatest hits" tracks of Panorama: The Best of Craig Chaquico bear out this evolution. Earlier material like the soundscape-heavy "Gathering of the Tribes" and the drive-time energetic "Native Tongue" let his guitar lead the way, buoyed by the bluesy keyboard textures of longtime partner Ozzie Ahlers. "Sweet Talk" and "Autumn Blue" added the blistering tenor counterpoint of Richard Elliot, while the slick pop slant of "Lights out San Francisco" paired him with the graceful strings of Peter White. But while these all-star enhanced tunes are slightly more radio friendly, Chaquico makes sure his crisp strings are always center stage. Two new cuts hint at his future playing more Latin and trip hop music. He improvises easily over the hypnotic toe-tapping trance grooves of 3rd Force on "Beyond Words," then lets his strings dance over the fiery brass, explosive percussion, and Ahlers' Latin synth harmonies on "Cafe Carnival." This bright fiesta is something of a time travel bridge to Chaquico's days with Starship, his extended electric rock guitar solo being the first time he's ever alluded to those days on one of his mellower instrumental projects.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: Richard Elliot