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Joe Chambers: Horace to Max (2010)

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Joe Chambers: Horace to Max No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Drummer/vibraphonist/composer/educator Joe Chambers' Horace to Max is an awesome display of versatility and master musicianship; that's impossible to put away, it gets better with each listen. The distinctive blue-and-black colored cover design is similar to those fine Blue Note records of the 1960s and 1970s. The disc possesses a subtle suggestive theme that can only be described as plain old protest music, showing that times have not really changed; despite being written decades ago, the music's lyrics, meaning and intended audience remain relevant. This is a proactive, uplifting album of contemporary music par excellence that moves along at a tightly arranged and cohesive pace, giving cause to pause and think about the shape of the world.

Chambers' selection of musicians is a big plus, with some of the best, most seasoned players on the scene, including tenor saxophone sensation Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
and the superb/in-demand pianist Xavier Davis
Xavier Davis
Xavier Davis

piano
. Sturdy bassist Dwayne Bruno and veteran, in-the-pocket percussionist Steve Berrios
Steve Berrios
Steve Berrios

percussion
round out a dream band, producing a memorable, exciting and lovely musical voyage that includes elements of African and Latin music amidst waltzes, swinging selections and ballads. Two earthy tunes feature singer Nicole Guiland, whose excellent work on Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
's highly political "Mendacity" (originally recorded by Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
) is pure magic. She also sounds heavenly on Lincoln's "Lonesome Lover," also featuring pianist Helen Sung
Helen Sung
Helen Sung

piano
.

An all-star treatment of trumpeter Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
1924 - 1972
trumpet
's rarely recorded "Asiatic Raes" opens the disc, with Chambers' drums underneath a colorful, calypso-like intro that ultimately yields to seriously hip solos from Alexander, Davis and Chambers, whose subtle, smooth drumming leads this swinging affair. Roach's "The Man From South Africa" is the album's best track, a mesmerizing piece that travels to Africa, and is the perfect vehicle for Alexander to dig deep into his bag for a John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
/George Coleman
George Coleman
George Coleman
b.1935
sax, tenor
-like vibe and the happy, sunny sound the cut needs; the album released in time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the end of Nelson Mandela's 27-year incarceration. "The Man From South Africa" is as current as it gets—clear proof that music is, indeed, timeless.

Horace to Max is more than an extension of Chambers' first Savant release, 2006's The Outlaw, which featured the music of Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
. Horace to Max is much more message-driven, more mindful of the difference music can make in peoples' lives, and evidence of how good music can, at the very least, lead to meaningful discussion about global problems. Horace to Max also proves that the Carolina jazz connection is alive and well; Chambers currently resides in the birthplace of Trane, Roach, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
and Nina Simone
Nina Simone
Nina Simone
1933 - 2003
piano
as a distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Some say it's the North Carolina water that has helped produce this fruitful, spiritual group of prominent jazz musicians. There is, indeed, a great deal to drink in, because North Carolina has a deep, immensely creative and very rich wellspring.

Track Listing: Asiatic Raes; Ecaroh; Man from South Africa; Mendacity; Porta; Water Babies; Lonesome Lover; Evidence; Afreeka.

Personnel: Joe Chambers: drums, vibes, marimba; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Xavier Davis: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass; Steve Berrios: percussion, drums; Helen Sung: piano (7); Richie Goode: bass (7); Nicole Guiland: vocals (4, 7).

Record Label: Savant Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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