Higher Octave albums are rarely as astonishing as this Chaquico classic.
To say that the album, Midnight Noon, which Craig released when he was approaching 50 years of age, is not my all-time favorite of his Higher Octave music releases is like saying that Sleepy isn’t my favorite of the Seven Dwarves. I mean, you kinda gotta accept the whole package, don’t you? Snow White needed all seven of those dwarves to make her life’s transformation complete. So, too, is the case with Craig’s Higher Octave music.
Higher Octave was a Malibu-based recording label focused on New Age and other types of spiritually-tinged music. Craig recorded 8 albums with them before the label was sold, downsized, and eventually moved out of California to become part of Blue Note (owned by the megacorporation, UMG/Vivendi). Midnight Noon, along with a Christmas holiday recording, Holiday (2005), were the last albums that Craig did with the Higher Octave team. The songs were co-written and produced with Craig’s longtime collaborator, Ozzie Ahlers, who plays keyboards on the tracks, alongside a talented group of seven other musicians, including Jim Reitzel (bass), Kevin Paladini (saxophone), and Wade Olson (drums).
The songs were recorded in various studios (and at the Oak View Hotel, in one case) in Oregon, California, and New York. Predictably, the songs vary quite a lot, with lots of fusion musical styles and sounds that meander from classic smooth jazz to Latin inflected tunes to retro rock and dabblings of New Age. Craig’s guitar playing is the central pillar on which the songs are based, both acoustic and electric, but beyond that, each song kind of rises and falls on its own.
The title track, “Jazz Noon,” may be the signature song on the album, but “Outlaw in the City” has a fun, rollicking feel to it that closes things with a bang. “Dream Date” is quite catchy, but the songs tend to blend into each other unless you’re really paying attention. I like them all, and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite. All the more reason to listen to this as a full album rather than as mix-and-match songs from a music streaming service. Convenience does come at a price.