Joe Chambers

Horace to Max

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Joe Chambers is back -- 37 years past his breakthrough solo project, The Almoravid -- with his follow-up to the fine 2006 album The Outlaw. Though the title Horace to Max does signify influences and peers (Horace Silver and Max Roach specifically) Chambers has enjoyed, Miles Davis is also somewhere in between. Playing the drum kit and lots of marimba and vibraphone -- at times overdubbed -- Chambers offers Afrocentric polyrhythms with Latin underpinnings, and loads of hard-swinging jazz. Sonny Rollins is also feted on his great composition "Asiatic Raes," bright as the sun in Latin, off-minor tenor sax from Eric Alexander and swift bop. With the mysterious "Portia" and "Water Babies," a full decade of Davis from his latter period of work is represented in more subtle tones. Nicole Guiland sings faithfully in the stoic, pointed style of Abbey Lincoln during the politically charged "Mendacity" and the pensive "Lonesome Lover," while Thelonious Monk is also recognized during the fleet, staccato-accented version of "Evidence." Alexander is his usual reliable and occasionally brilliant self, with pianist Xavier Davis right there every step of the way. The mallet work of Chambers has been downplayed for decades, but here emphasizes what a complete musician and especially unique arranger he is, not just a drummer or timekeeper. Steve Berrios also deserves credit and high praise as a support drummer and primary percussionist. Though you have to wait until the last track, "Afreeka," to hear Chambers as a composer, it's well worth it in a cooking modal form via bassist Dwayne Burno, which identifies the bandleader's personal style. With complete vision of sound and sensory perception in an African-American perspective, Chambers hits several grand slam home runs on this vital and exciting album that comes highly recommended.

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