288

Joe Chambers: Horace to Max

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Chambers: Horace to Max Though best known for his drum work on key 1960s Blue Note sessions with artists including vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Andrew Hill and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Joe Chambers has gradually built a reputation as an equally distinctive composer and mallet player. Horace to Max is more heavily weighted towards cover material from Shorter, bassist Marcus Miller, pianist Thelonious Monk and trumpeter Kenny Dorham—and, of course, its two titular legends, pianist Horace Silver and drummer Max Roach—but it does maintain an ideal balance between his work on and off the kit.

Amongst so many legendary composers, Miller's "Portia"—from one of Miles Davis' latter-day electric albums, Tutu (Warner Bros., 1986)—may seem odd. Still, with a strong quintet featuring drummer/percussionist Steve Berrios—allowing Chambers the freedom to concentrate on in-the-moment group interaction rather than having to overdub his mallet instruments over his kit—it's becomes an atmospheric highlight that, in addition to Chambers' oblique marimba solo, affords plenty of space for lithe pianist Xavier Davis, and an indigo-rich head played by saxophonist Eric Alexander, who has something of his own to prove here.

Often pegged squarely as a mainstream performer, Chambers couldn't have made a better choice in recruiting Alexander for a session that marries Afro-Cuban rhythms with straight-ahead swing and more. But over the harmonic ambiguity of Shorter's "Water Babies"—Chambers, this time, layering vibes and marimba over his kit—Alexander truly shines, extending himself into outré territory with a closing solo of controlled power and restraint that would make its composer proud.

Two tracks featuring vocalist Nicole Guiland—Roach's swinging chestnut "Lonesome Lover," co-written with Abbey Lincoln, and his melancholic but politically charged ballad, "Mendacity"—lend Horace to Max its largely centrist position. Still, Dorham's oriental-tinged "Asiatic Raes" gets reworked with a clavé drums/percussion intro, before moving into its stop-start head and a fiery pulse, anchored by bassist Dwayne Burno, that gives Alexander and Davis the first salvos on an album filled with focused, often brief, but always memorable soloing. The only Chambers original, "Afreeka" is a revisit from Urban Grooves (441 Records, 2003) where, coincidentally, he also gave a first kick at "Portia." Here, however, the group trims down to a percussion-driven, piano-less quartet, for a joyful, Afro-centic track that puts Chambers' vibes and marimba out front, as he interacts in a fashion all the more remarkable for his having separately overdubbed the two instruments.

Elsewhere, Chambers gives relatively short shrift to Monk's enduring "Evidence," though taken an almost impossibly fast clip, and a more extended look at Silver's soulfully swinging "Ecaroh," with lengthy features for Alexander and Chambers (on vibes) that travel a knotty set of time changes yet remain assured in their seamless shifts.

On 2006's The Outlaw, his first for Savant, Chambers' stated ambition was to reestablish himself as a mallet player. He achieves even greater success on Horace to Max, while not entirely eschewing his inestimable skill behind the instrument that cemented his reputation in the first place.

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

Personnel: Joe Chambers: drums (1, 3, 4, 6-8), vibraphone (2-7, 9); marimba (5, 6, 9); Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone (1-6, 8, 9); Xavier Davis: piano (1-6, 8); Dwayne Burno: bass (1-6, 8, 9); Steve Berrios: conga drums (1, 9), drums (2, 5), percussion (3, 6, 8); Nicole Guiland: vocal (4, 7); Helen Sung: piano (7); Richie Goode: bass (7).

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Savant Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
Read more articles
Max Roach Max Roach
drums
Cedar Walton Cedar Walton
piano
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
saxophone
Bobby Hutcherson Bobby Hutcherson
vibraphone
Johnny Griffin Johnny Griffin
sax, tenor
Dave Liebman Dave Liebman
saxophone
Earl Klugh Earl Klugh
guitar, acoustic
Benny Carter Benny Carter
sax, alto
Paul Motian Paul Motian
drums
Kenny Barron Kenny Barron
piano
Jackie McLean Jackie McLean
sax, alto
Donny McCaslin Donny McCaslin
saxophone

More Articles

Read This Is The Uplifting Part CD/LP/Track Review This Is The Uplifting Part
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh CD/LP/Track Review Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana CD/LP/Track Review Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Glare of the Tiger CD/LP/Track Review Glare of the Tiger
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2017
Read From Two Balconies CD/LP/Track Review From Two Balconies
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 21, 2017
Read "Sunday Night At The Vanguard" CD/LP/Track Review Sunday Night At The Vanguard
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 18, 2016
Read "Rhythmic Movement" CD/LP/Track Review Rhythmic Movement
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 22, 2016
Read "Five" CD/LP/Track Review Five
by John Sharpe
Published: August 14, 2016
Read "Pocono Git-Down" CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Pascal Battus / Dafne Vicente-Sandoval</em>" CD/LP/Track Review Pascal Battus / Dafne Vicente-Sandoval</em>
by John Eyles
Published: June 17, 2016
Read "Sings the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Sings the Blues
by James Nadal
Published: March 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!