Chrono Trigger music is no stranger to jazz. After 1995’s acid jazz The Brink of Time arranged album, I’m not surprised that Sean Schafianski’s Chrono Trigger: Jazz Arrange Version struck me as sounding very natural. Aside from having impeccable execution, it really succeeded at punching my face with the Nostalgia Knuckles. I went in hoping for a fun, jazzy new way to listen to some old tunes I love, and I got just that.
The album appropriately kicks things off with Kronos (Chrono Trigger). A bouncing bass and popping, syncopated guitar work with a Rhodes to lay the foundation for a nice synth horn to play the lead, although I do wish the mix had a little more bottom end. In terms of execution, it’s a spot-on interpretation of what I would expect, and I mean that in the best way possible. Even while sticking so closely to the core of the original song, this track really holds onto its own identity. The crunchy guitar solo that romps through the second half gives a feeling of levity that really sets the mood for the album as a whole.
When I first heard Wonderful World (Peaceful Days), I wasn’t in love with the patch used for the opening lead. It’s not the focal point of the piece for long, and after a few listens I’ve come around on it, but it still strikes me as a little boisterous, especially compared to the mellow saxophone it passes the lead off to. The sax solo that comprises the remainder of the arrangement is pretty fantastic, and really accentuates the hometown vibe of the song.
Zephyr (Yearnings of the Wind) is probably my favorite track on the EP. While many of the tracks deliver what I hoped for or expected, Zephyr far exceeded my imagination. The piece is cleverly arranged: switching in an upright bass, bringing in a piano for the melody, and changing to a new percussion section… it all comes together very fluidly. Even when the muted horn comes in for its solo, it maintains a relaxed, natural feeling. I barely have words for how “right” this arrangement is, and I kind of doubt I’ll ever be satisfied by a different version of the song now.
Sweet Dreams (Good Night) is a cute little arrangement. If you listen to it before bed, maybe something good will happen!
Time Drift (Corridor of Time) is another track that kind of blew me away. Right away, you get some melancholy arpeggios from an acoustic guitar backed up by a sweet bossa nova bass part. After a lead guitar plays through the melody once, it backs off to make room for another pleasant muted horn solo. While it’s a little on the short side, clocking in at 2:33, you don’t notice the brevity when you’re listening to it. The piece is so full, the tone is so deep and warm, and so much happens in those two and a half minutes that when it ends, I’m both left wanting more and amazed at how much was packed into the song.
Taking a hard turn, up next is Quantum Leap (The Epoch — Wings of Time). After a few chill tracks, it’s kind of easy to get a little whiplash here. This smooth jazz tune starts off pretty explosively with a bright synth blasting the lead melody right out of the gate. If you can make it through the stark contrast, you’ll find a lot to like about the track: exciting, upbeat alt chords, playful bass, and a couple of crazy fun solos from a sax and a Rhodes. While it doesn’t tug on my heartstrings like my favorite tracks from the EP, it’s an enjoyable departure that helps add some variety.
Wrapping things up is Here’s to the Future (Outskirts of Time). By Schafianski’s own admission, it’s not really a jazz track. Instead, it’s a definitive resolution. When the familiar pop-rock drum beat kicks in, I feel like I can see the credits roll. There’s an adorable guitar back-and-forth to build up a powerful climax before the song’s signature arpeggios roll into the final movement. Out of context, I don’t think this is my favorite version of the song, but it’s a really satisfying end to the EP.
While my bias towards Chrono Trigger music is strong, I think that’s the target demographic here anyway, and I think they’ll be pleased with the offering. While I enjoy all the tracks, the ones that I really love will keep this album in my rotation for a very long time. At the minimum pay-what-you-want price of five bucks, I’d say it’s pretty much imperative to pick this one up if you’re a fan of the source material.