7

Paul Chambers: Bass on Top – 1957

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
Credit the bassman for having the guts to try something very different, and Blue Note for supporting an experiment that surely wasn’t very commercial.
Enter the album name hereIn the world of 1950s hard bop, there is no more prominent bassist than Paul Chambers. The man was absolutely everywhere.

He shows up on an astonishing number of jazz classics, including Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, John Coltrane's Giant Steps, Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, Sonny Rollins' Tenor Madness and Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth. He was a sideman on 200 albums from the '50s and '60s.

So it's natural to associate Chambers with a certain kind of jazz—conventional bop with adventurous soloists, always the supporting rhythm man.

Bass on Top turns that convention on its head—and it's not an easy listen.

Chambers leads on every tune, playing melody and long solos. Credit the bassman for having the guts to try something very different, and Blue Note for supporting an experiment that surely wasn't very commercial.

But I'm not a fan of Bass on Top. I admire the idea, but not the reality.

Maybe it's my ears. I have trouble hearing all those low notes. And maybe it's just an old prejudice. Bass on Top is so far from what I'm used to hearing. I recognize what Chambers is doing—playing the bass as if it were a sax or trumpet. But it feels foreign. I've listened several times, but I just can't connect. The songs are very familiar, but the instrumentation is not.

It's not all negative. The opening number, Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," is actually moving. It starts almost like chamber music, with Chambers playing with a bow, a long, melancholy statement of the melody. It's beautiful. Then it moves into standard jazz improvisation, and I feel lost at sea with the long, heavy bass solo.

Chambers uses the bow again on Miles Davis' "The Theme." Again, the bass solos leave me cold, but Kenny Burrell's guitar and Hank Jones' piano play more prominent roles, and drummer Art Taylor playfully trades phrases with Chambers. It's joyful. In fact, Burrell is, for me, the album's biggest selling point. He never disappoints.

But whether it's a toe-tapper like Charlie Parker's "Chasin' the Bird" or the old chestnut "Dear Old Stockholm," I just can't warm up to those long bass solos. The band is terrific. The song selection is top-notch. The experiment is absolutely worthy. But the execution leaves me cold.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Easy to find

Cost: Around $5 used

Shop

More Articles

Read Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959 My Blue Note Obsession Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959
by Marc Davis
Published: March 21, 2017
Read Paul Chambers: Paul Chambers Quintet - 1957 My Blue Note Obsession Paul Chambers: Paul Chambers Quintet - 1957
by Marc Davis
Published: March 3, 2017
Read The Best of Lou Donaldson, Volume 1 – 1957-1967 My Blue Note Obsession The Best of Lou Donaldson, Volume 1 – 1957-1967
by Marc Davis
Published: February 13, 2017
Read Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder – 1964 My Blue Note Obsession Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder – 1964
by Marc Davis
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Sabu Martinez: Palo Congo – 1957 My Blue Note Obsession Sabu Martinez: Palo Congo – 1957
by Marc Davis
Published: January 17, 2017
Read Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra: Consummation – 1970 My Blue Note Obsession Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra: Consummation – 1970
by Marc Davis
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Leo Parker: Rollin' With Leo – 1961" My Blue Note Obsession Leo Parker: Rollin' With Leo – 1961
by Marc Davis
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Louis Smith: Here Comes Louis Smith – 1957" My Blue Note Obsession Louis Smith: Here Comes Louis Smith – 1957
by Marc Davis
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra: Consummation – 1970" My Blue Note Obsession Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra: Consummation – 1970
by Marc Davis
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Dr. Lonnie Smith: Then and Now – Think! (1968) vs Evolution (2016)" My Blue Note Obsession Dr. Lonnie Smith: Then and Now – Think! (1968) vs...
by Marc Davis
Published: April 4, 2016
Read "Johnny Griffin: The Congregation – 1957" My Blue Note Obsession Johnny Griffin: The Congregation – 1957
by Marc Davis
Published: June 20, 2016
Read "Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959" My Blue Note Obsession Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959
by Marc Davis
Published: March 21, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

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!