Joe Chambers is the quintessential drummer, for many reasons. To begin with, his discography is a who's who of jazz. His own compositions are no less worthy of praise. He has been ubiquitous in jazz recording for the last five decades. On his latest recording "Horace to Max" on the Savant label, Chambers pays homage to two of his greatest influences, Horace Silver and Max Roach.
Chambers came on the jazz scene in New York back in 1963 and landed in the avant garde scene, to witness the likes of Eric Dolphy. With his swinging and creative drum style, Chambers found himself in demand and became a notable sessions drummer. His recordings in the '60s involved work with many great artists including; Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. When he became a charter member of M'Boom, the innovative percussion ensemble of Max Roach, the direction of Chambers' career would be forever and profoundly impacted.
Chambers calls Max Roach his 'mentor'. He acknowledges the effect that others like Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones had on him, but to Max goes the lion's share of the affection. Max had an effect on Chambers both behind the kit and behind the pen. The diversity of the talents of Max Roach would drive Chambers to become a diverse and deeply capable talent. This effort also recognizes another great influential figure, Horace Silver.
In his latest work, Chambers takes up where he left off with his 2006 release "The Outlaw" and leads a solid list of musicians to create a piece of work that offers a wide array of styles and executions. With varying instrumental focus that enables the listener to get a wide perspective of these compositions. The opening cut, "Asiatic Raes" is a wonderful take on Kenny Dorham's composition. The energy is first delivered in a well-executed interplay between drums and congas that transitions smoothly into a high-energy 4/4 metered rollick. Chambers works his melodic magic on the kit.
The line up on this CD is noteworthy also. Tenor Saxophonist Eric Alexander, who has been showing up a lot lately in the CDs I have been checking out, is an integral part of the collection. Dwayne Burno on bass is a recognizable force for the driving and sustaining grooves of these arrangements. Afro-Cuban percussionist Steve Berrios (a bandmate of Chambers in the current edition of M'Boom) provides a key piece of rhythmic ethnicity so crucial to each of these compositions. Chambers himself thrills on the kit as well as his mallet work. Xavier Davis on piano is phenomenal throughout.
The sax work on Monk's "Evidence" is powerful and coupled with the rhythm section and piano makes this a forceful cut.
Additional cuts on the CD include Silver's "Ecaroh", Roach's works, "Man From South Africa", "Mendacity", and "Lonesome Lover". Marcus Miller's "Portia" and Wayne Shorter's "Water Babies" all get special treatment by Chambers and the players.
With compositions representing the work of Silver, Roach, Marcus Miller, and Chambers, "Horrace to Max" is a fantastic example of the forces that bring Joe Chambers to where he is in the universe today. Whether behind the kit, or with a set of mallets in his hand, the melodic drumming skills and vast musicality of Joe Chambers is a joy to partake in.
In the end it is "Afreeka", that held my attention for the sole reason that it is the epitome of a synthesis of influence and instrumental duality. Chambers skill with sticks or mallets is evident here, but the piece hearkens back to the influences of his mentor and others. A notable contribution to the tribute nature of the CD.
Joe Chambers latest CD, "Horace to Max", is a concise treatise on melodic drumming, powerful expression and the use of music as a higher form of honoring another while fully expressing self. A respectful and masterful execution of respect. It has been a bit of good fortune to have the privilege of getting an early listen to this fine work.