It's not everyone who gets to be name-checked in the title of an album by Sun Ra
, but Chicago-native Vincent Chancey
inhabits a select club thanks to Taking A Chance On Chances
(Saturn, 1977), (mis-)named after an improvised duet between his French horn and Ra's piano. As well as the Arkestra, Chancey's French horn has also featured in the bands of Carla Bley
, Lester Bowie
, David Murray
and Dave Douglas
among over 300 sideman dates. But in spite of such prominence he doesn't possess a large discography under his own leadership.
In fact the limited edition LP The Spell
is only the fourth entry in a career spanning some forty-four years, so this release of a 1987 concert recording is a welcome addition. Alongside Chancey are bassist Wilber Morris
(late brother of trumpeter and conductionist Butch) and percussionist Warren Smith
(an alumnus of Max Roach
's M'boom ensemble) in a contemplative jazz trio. All three bring charts to the table which exploit the resources to hand, particularly Smith's versatility. His use of marimba on three of the four tracks adds a distinctive chamber music flavor.
Smith plays marimba on the head of Morris' "Chazz," which introduces Side A with a slow bluesy lilt, before switching to drumkit, as Chancey preaches and entreats. The malletted instrument also provides another contrapuntal voice alongside Morris pizzicato on the title cut, a yearning ballad by Chancey. Morris offers regular reminders of what a marvelous player he was, offering deliciously resonant slurs behind Smith's solo and extending the textural variety with arco flourishes at mini-crescendos in the horn man's melodious outing.
Chancey takes advantage of the full range of his horn, suggesting a higher pitched more agile trombone at some points and reaching down to the tuba dwelling depths at others. But whatever the register there is an elegance and lyricism to his sound. That is even true on Smith's "Free Form #10," a short piece which lives up to its billing, as a series of brief compositional signposts frame choppy open improvisations. There is lots of expressive interplay throughout, but especially during the spiritual vibe of the bassist's "Afro-Amerin" which is the highlight, where Chancey's churchy ululations intertwine with Morris' bowed grounding, amid recapitulations of the uplifting hopeful refrain.
The slightly murky sound is the only drawback, but the quality of the music overcomes any qualms.
Chazz; The Spell; Free Form #10; Afro-Amerin.