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Aside from Ray Brown and Dave Holland, few bass players over the years have chosen to put their instruments up front as a leading voice. Lest we forget the efforts in this area by the legendary Paul Chambers, a recent Mosaic Select collection sets the record straight on the bassist's own sessions as a leader. While just about all the music included on this three disc set has been available on CD before in one form or the other, currently only Whims of Chambers is in print, making this a must-have item for those fans of Chambers' work who might have missed out the first time around.
This collection kicks off with a March 1956 session that was originally issued as Chambers' Music on the Jazz West label. While recorded in Hollywood, it's a decidedly New York cast of characters that contributes, including Kenny Drew, Philly Joe Jones, and John Coltrane. The sound quality is strong and this early glimpse of Coltrane makes for an intriguing listen even if the general feeling is of the jam session variety. Far less interesting are three selections done a month label in Boston for Transition. While Coltrane is again present, these loose structures and lengthy jams provide for not much more than a string of solos.
The meat of this collection commences with the September 1956 Blue Note session that was issued as Whims of Chambers. Chambers strolls his bass (which was supplied with a wheel attached to the bottom support peg) down the street on the cover shot in one of the more memorable early Blue Note covers and we get the rare opportunity to hear Coltrane in the company of Horace Silver for what was their only recorded appearance together. Everything about this date makes for a hard bop delight, with Chambers putting himself up front but without any grandstanding that might take away from the overall satisfaction. Donald Byrd's "Omicron" and "We Six" are prickly burners that find Coltrane at his early best.
Things start to change up with the 1957 studio date Paul Chambers Quintet. Byrd is back on trumpet, but now he's sharing the front line with Clifford Jordan and the rhythm section includes two Detroiters, namely Tommy Flanagan and Elvin Jones. There's a decidedly more ambitious feel to this one thanks to some strong original lines, including two numbers from the pen of Benny Golson. Chambers' final Blue Note album, Bass On Top , retreats to more familiar territory and its title fairly sums up the intent. Without any horns and a plethora of bass solos, the album wears out its welcome fairly quickly, although bass fanatics will be taking in every note.
A very concise package of Chambers' sole recorded work as a leader, this set also includes the two 1959 duets with Art Blakey and a booklet that includes original liners and color reproductions of several of the original album covers.
Track Listing: DISC ONE
1. Dexterity (A) 6:44
2. Stablemates (A) 5:52
3. Easy To Love (A) 3:50
4. Visitation (A) 4:53
5. Trane's Blues (aka John Paul Jones) (A) 6:54
6. Eastbound (A) 4:21
7. Omicron (C) 7:15
8. Whims Of Chambers (C) 4:03
9. Nita (C) 6:03
10. We Six (C) 7:39
11. Dear Ann (C) 4:18
12. Tale Of The Fingers (C) 4:41
13. Just For The Love (C) 3:41
1. Trane's Strain (B) 11:00
2. High Step (B) 8:09
3. Nixon, Dixon And Yates Blues (B) 8:26
4. Minor Run-Down (D) 7:36
5. The Hand Of Love (D) 6:22
6. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (D) 3:06
(S. Romberg-O. Hammerstein)
7. Four Strings (D) 5:26
8. What's New (D) 5:38
(B. Haggart-J. Burke)
9. Beauteous (D) 8:05
10. Four Strings (alternate take) (D) 5:11
1. Yesterdays (E) 5:50
(J. Kern-O. Harbach)
2. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To (E) 7:15
3. Chasin' The Bird (E) 5:45
4. Dear Old Stockholm (E) 6:40
5. The Theme (E) 6:10
6. Confessin' (I'm Confessin' That I Love You) (E) 4:15
7. Chamber Mates (E) 5:00
8. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (F) 7:07
9. What Is This Thing Called Love (F) 5:42
Personnel: Paul Chambers (bass) with John Coltrane, Pepper Adams, Curtis Fuller, Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver, and many others
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.