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First, a few words about the venue... Zanzibar Blue is located in the Bellevue at the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia. It is one of the three or four really great jazz clubs in a city full of great jazz haunts. The Blue is a dark and elegant room with superb acoustics and a grade A bar and kitchen. No Chicken Shack is the Zanzibar Blue. The Blue headlines the top talent in jazz in a comfortable mature atmosphere.
Charles Fambrough is a 53-year-old Philly Native with a prodigious set of bass chops he acquired while driving the bottom of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1980s. He produced three critically acclaimed releases for Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the early 1990s, all filled to the brim with his intelligent and self-confident compositions. For consideration here is a new live release on Random Chance Records that perfectly continues where Fambrough left off on his last recording, Upright Citizen, in 1997.
The music here falls some where between hard bop and post bop. Basically well-behaved mainstream, well behaved and absolutely superb. The two-horn front of trumpet and soprano saxophone produces a provocative and little heard combination for an entire recital. The soprano saxophone gives the music a very contemporary feel without straying too far from the mainstream jazz roots. As for the leader, Mr. Fambrough has a beautiful tone that is a little like Ray Brown’s with Charles Mingus’s sense of humor. This is best demonstrated on the disc opener where Mr. Fambrough plays a funky blues figure and then shifts into a 4/4 walk that spreads out to fill the universe.
Live @ Zanzibar Blue can only brag two standards. Miles Davis’s "All Blues" and the Rodgers and Hammerstein "It Might as Well Be Spring." The remainder are all of the smart originals by the leader. All are effortless swing and this is a perfectly fine recording.
Track Listing: K-Mack; On A Lite Tip; Cat Eyes; Koln; Bossa For Grover; Doc Tone; Zanzibar Blue #1; All Blues; It Might As Well Be Spring; Waltz For Carla; Fool's Play; Prayer, Zanzibar Blue #2. (Total Time: 67:34).
Personnel: Charles Fambrough--Bass; Lenny White--Drums; Wilby Fletcher--Drums; Joe Ford--soprano Saxophone; Bill O'Connell--Piano; Sean Jones--Trumpet, Flugelhorn.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.