Charley Langer
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Charley Langer

Sacramento, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Sacramento, California, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Charley Langer - Never The Same"

By Kelly O’Neil,; staff writer for CCM, U and CrossWalk magazines
Charley Langer “Never The Same”
November 17th, 2009

Saxophonist Charley Langer has assembled a fantastic group of accomplished musicians for his debut album Never the Same. This is not the typical jazz compilation of artists but rather an awesome blend of classic rock, peppered with jazz with a hint of classical. Langer himself has a Masters Degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Southern California where he studied under classical saxophonist Douglas Masek. On the flip side, Langer currently is the arranger and wind section leader for Sacramento-based Steely Dan tribute band Steelin’ Dan. To help combine and perfect the best possible mixture of rock and jazz, drummer Ron Wikso, who has shared the stage with numerous rock legends, produced the album.

In the title track Langer plays alto and exhibits a well-controlled medium-fast vibrato at the end of his phrases. His bright, polished sound soars nicely over the rhythm section and his solos are crisp and not too busy. Every note is well articulated and defined yet rounded off giving a sense of aural smoothness. Langer switches to soprano in “Epifania” and blends extremely well with the tenor saxophone and brass. This trio of wind instruments expertly plays every trill precisely as one. Unlike the thin tone of Kenny G, Langer embodies a fuller sound on the soprano. Additionally, he utilizes the full range of the instrument instead of simply sitting on the high notes. Switching back to alto for “Once in a Lifetime” Langer this time blends nicely with the keyboards who crescendo on long tones underneath the saxophone melody, then burst out with fun little fills at the end of phrases. Renowned salsa bandleader Michito Sanchez adds to the energy with his esteemed percussion skills.

Another prominent musician on Never the Same is guitarist Kurt Griffey. Like Wikso, he boasts an impressive resume of rock gigs and adds a unique flavor to Langer’s songs that definitely make this jazz album stand out from the typical smooth Weather Channel tunes. “Remember When” opens with the electric guitar and like a flower unfurling its petals, the song slowly gains momentum before it reaches its stride where Griffey and Langer share a pleasant conversation. Griffey then expounds into a slightly overdriven solo that is dripping with sophisticated coolness. Like Langer, his tone is clear, expertly controlled and never obnoxious. In “City Lights” both musicians get a little more adventurous with their respective solos. Langer displays a formidable solo, wailing out the high notes underneath Wally Minko on the Hammond organ. Griffey’s solo is equally as awesome as he gets more tastefully raunchy than previously heard. True musicians of course have to be adept at different styles as is evident in the following track “Gray Skies.” This melancholy ballad displays soul-bearing musicianship, with Griffey’s playing this time oozing with sincerity as he solos with minimal effects.

The only song on the album not penned by Langer is the closer “Espressivo.” Not to detract from anyone’s fine playing, but the blend does not seem to work as well in this tune. Minko this time is on the piano, where he opens the number with a full minute of quiet, incidental music before the rest of the band joins in. Langer is on soprano again, but it inadvertently tends to draw attention to itself, not due to Langer’s playing, but due to the overall mellow timbre of the rest of the musicians. Mark Morris on guitar plays relaxed arpeggiated solos under the piano and Ed McGlaughlin on bass gets to solo – which he does a fine job at – but the soprano saxophone flourishes simply seem out of place with the rest of the song. It is not until the coda that an aural blend finally seems to have been established with Langer playing dreamy repetitive long tones, but this mood is unfortunately interrupted by the noodling and trilling in the fade out.

Overall though, Never the Same is an excellent album and a real treat for listeners who crave something new and exciting from the same old same old “smooth jazz” genre. Langer has made some excellent friends who will hopefully continue to collaborate and churn out more fabulous music.

"Charley Langer"

By Dan MacIntosh,; critic for CMJ, Paste, Spin, and others.

Charley Langer doesn't waste these three tracks. If you take the time to listen, each one reveals a different side of his musical personality.

With "Never the same", he shows off an easygoing pop-jazz flavor. But on "Outside In", he's at his best while navigating a tricky melodic line over a funky bass part. "Gray Skies" changes tactics again; this time it's a ballad. What we see here is a jazz musician as jack of all trades, and a darn good one, to boot. -


Never The Same
Charley Langer
2009 Udoi Records



He sometimes refers to his debut full length independent recording Never The Same as “an art project with some very hot players” – but there’s no doubt about the Northern California based saxophonist’s mainstream potential and ability to connect with thousands of contemporary jazz fans in his home region and around the U.S. and world. Even before the album’s official release, its infectious and grooving title track received significant airplay on The Weather Channel and smooth jazz radio, and the video Langer made of the song continues to receive about 400 views per day on YouTube.

Charley grew up in Boulder, Colorado, the son of a geophysicist who was also a jazz and big band aficionado. His father tried to steer him towards engineering, but music was Langer’s first love and he began taking lessons from his junior high band teacher, Vincent Gnojek, a prominent classical saxophonist. He continued to develop his technique in college under Douglas Masek and Laura Hunter.

While he played saxophone in Southern California for a few years after receiving his Master’s in Performance from USC, the classically trained Langer had been away from music for a few years when Jon Basebase, a renowned musician that he befriended while living in Honolulu, suggested he begin playing and writing again.

After relocating to Sacramento, Langer began focusing on composing and recording and hooked up with drummer/producer Ron Wikso, who currently performs with Gregg Rollie, founding keyboardist for Journey and Santana. Wikso brought in a heavyweight ensemble that includes rock guitarist Kurt Griffey, world-class bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report), keyboardist Wally Minko (Jean Luc Ponty) and percussionist Michito Sanchez (Joe Sample).

This unique lineup helped Langer realize a vision that incorporates everything from smooth jazz to fusion, old school soul, Latin, and straight ahead. The result is best described as intelligent smooth jazz – think Phil Woods meets Boney James. “I have varied interests. I love smooth jazz, fusion, classical, Hawaiian, reggae…and I grew up listening to swing and big band via my dad,” says Langer. “Naturally,” he says, “the music on Never The Same reflects a lot of these interests. Ron was great about making sure that it all hung together. The idea was to keep it very real with all live players and authentic instruments.”

Langer’s live performances have included many different genres over the years, reflecting the unique array of styles he plays on his alto and soprano saxes. Early in his musical career, he performed with Southern California area orchestras and with such notables as Morton Gould, John Adams, and Zita Carno. Today, you are more likely to hear him in a popular music or jazz setting.

Sacramento Jazz Festival - Sacramento, CA
Kobra Crush 29 Art & Wine Festival - Roseville, CA
Best of Sacramento Awards - Sacramento, CA
Art & Wine Affaire - El Dorado Hills, CA
Naggiar Vineyards & Winery - Grass Valley, CA
El Dorado Art & Wine Festival - Placerville, CA
Harrah's Reno - Reno, NV
David Girard Vineyards - Placerville, CA
Crystal Bay Casino - Crystal Bay, NV
Evening In Art - El Dorado Hills, CA
Orchard Creek Amphitheatre - Lincoln Hills, CA
Grass Valley Center for the Arts - Grass Valley, CA
Harrah's Tahoe - Tahoe, CA
Sutter Creek Theatre - Sutter Creek, CA
Blue Goose Theatre - Loomis, CA
City of Auburn's Summer Concert Series - Auburn, CA
Crest Theatre - Sacramento, CA
Feather Falls Casino - Oroville, CA
Harlow's Nightclub - Sacramento, CA
Rancho Murieta Outdoor Concert Series - Rancho Murieta, CA
Colusa Casino Resort - Colusa, CA
Black Oak Casino - Sonora, CA

“It’s amusing that Langer affectionately refers to Never The Same as his little art project, because normally that phrase means something a musician does for himself (and maybe a few friends) that has minimal mainstream commercial appeal. He takes an artistic approach to contemporary jazz for sure, mixing in a lot of dynamic old school soul-jazz textures (Fender Rhodes and Hammond B-3) and touching on various related styles, from Latin and edgy rock fusion to (on the album’s coolest, most unexpected excursion, “Upside Down”), straight ahead jazz. But avant-garde this isn’t. In fact, it’s one of the most infectious and engaging, instantly likeable in the pocket independent artist releases this year. It’s funky, it swings, it’s playful, it’s emotional – that’s a lot of places for a musical heart to go on one collection, but Langer does it all naturally and organically. The title track everyone is hearing is great, but just scratches the surface of Langer’s many musical muses. Let’s hope he does another “little art project” soon. All contemporary jazz albums should be this exciting.
–Jonathan Widran

Band Members