Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra – Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola

April 6, 2012

Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra – Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola – Savant 2120, 69:40 *****:

Joe Chambers, drums and vibes
Reed Section: Tim Green, Sharel Cassity, Craig Handy, Sam Dillon, Frank Basile
Trumpets: Frank Greene, David Weiss, Greg Gisbert, Josh Evans
Trombones: Conrad Herwig, Steve Davis, James Burton, Max Siegel
Rhythm Section: Xavier Davis, piano; Dwayne Burno, bass; Steve Berrios, percussion
Vocals: Nicole Guiland, on Tracks 4 and 8

When discussing major unsung drummers of the last four to five decades, you’d have to include Joe Chambers at or near the top of the list. Joe has been actively playing since the early 60s, but has recorded less than fifteen albums as a leader – three in the 70s, one in the 80s, two in the 90s, and the balance in the 2000s . He has been a prominent drummer behind some of the major jazz artists of the last half century, including Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, Andrew Hill, Max Roach (with M’Boom), Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and many, many more. In the 1960s Joe was prominently featured with many Blue Note artists, especially Bobby Hutcherson.

Luckily, Savant Records has signed Joe, and his last three CDs have been for that label. Two years ago we reviewed his tribute to fellow artists,From Horace to Max.

His rhythm section from that CD returns on his latest CD, recorded live at the intimate Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center in New York, on Sept. 16, 2011. Vocalist Nicole Guiland is back and is featured on “Lonesome Lover,” and “Mendacity.” For the Sept. 2011 live recording, Joe has also used the cream of New York’s jazz community on reeds and horns, such as Craig Handy, David Weiss, Greg Gisbert, Conrad Herwig, and Steve Davis. The Moving Pictures Suite was written as a commissioned piece back in 2003 for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Year of the Drum. Approaching his 70th birthday later in 2012, Chambers decided to record this suite, adding five other selections to fill out a live program. Trumpeter David Weiss was asked to recruit younger talent to fill out the reed and horn section and has succeeded admirably. Chambers’ talents as a drummer composing, orchestrating, and arranging this music is rather unique, as not even Max Roach ever led an orchestra as composer and arranger. What is mind blowing is that this was Chamber’s first opportunity to record a large ensemble.

The acoustics on this live set are exemplary and the polish and power of this band is clearly evident on one’s first listen to this CD. Right off from the powerful trumpet opening on the “Prelude: 1st Movement,” you know you are in for something special. The suite is done in four movements, with five parts, and it is spread out with the first three movements coming first, followed by five tracks of varied material, and the final two movements coming at the end of the recording. Chambers divides his time between the drum kit and the vibraphone.

The closing two movements have Afro-Cuban rhythms leading to a rumba closing out the set. The five non-suite selections range from two Max Roach compositions featuring vocalist Nicole Guiland, to Joe Henderson’s “Power to the People,” and Count Basie’s “Theme from ‘M Squad.’

What is most striking about this live set is the sophistication and precision of Joe Chambers’ arrangements. Thank goodness that Joe had the acumen to recognize that his stunning suite along with the book-ended mid-set tracks needed to be recorded for posterity. This large ensemble masterpiece should get consideration when the next Grammy selections are nominated. It’s that good….


Moving Pictures Suite: Prelude: 1st Movement, Irina: 2nd Movement, Ruth: 3rd Movement
Lonesome Lover, Power to the People, Tu-Way-Pock-E-Way, Theme from M Squad, Mendacity
Moving Pictures Suite (cont.): Clave de Bembe Part 1: 4th Movement, Clave de Bembe Part II: 4th Movement

—Jeff Krow

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