The Outlaw is an adventurous recording which finds veteran drummer Joe Chambers focusing on vibraphone, piano and marimba as much as the drum kit. In the liner notes, Chambers comments, "I'm not interested in playing drums behind anybody now. On this album, I'm trying to reestablish myself as a mallet player. Unfortunately, the album also reveals an interest in synthesizers that lend the music an artificial sheen which comes perilously close to smooth jazz.
The version of the Janet Jackson hit "Come Back To Me doesn't add anything to the original. With its electronic instrumentation and wordless female vocals, the track almost sounds like karaoke backing. The twinkling keyboards remind me of a soundtrack to a workplace safety video.
Vibes tend to work best when paired with knotty, almost off-kilter backing. When played with overly slick arrangements, they can seem too sweet and dulcet. "Bembe is one of the more successful tracks, framing the vibes over a dense percussion section with prominent dry shakers roughing away the shiny edges. The minimalism of this track is a direction which Chambers might have pursued with some success. Even the synthesizers that creep in are restrained enough to sound slightly ominous, instead of simply cheap.
Joe Chambers deserves credit for exploring new avenues, but more than a few of them turn out to be dead ends. His playing is expert as usual, but the arrangements and instrumentation are poorly conceived.
Track Listing: The Outlaw; Tu-Way-Pock-E-Way; Come Back To Me; I Think It's Time To Say Goodbye; In A
Sentimental Mood; Bembe; Escapade; Bahia; Poinciana.
Personnel: Joe Chambers: drums, vibraphone, piano, marimba, synthesizer programs, leader; Nicole
Guiland: voice (3,4); Logan Richardson: soprano and alto saxophone (4,6,9); Misha Tsiganov:
acoustic and electric piano (except 6,9); Dwayne Burno: bass (except 6,9); Bobby Sanabria:
percussion (except 4,7,9).
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.