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

In the 1960’s, drummer Joe Chambers recorded for Blue Note Records, backing artists such as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonists Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter, vibist Bobby Hutcherson and pianist Andrew Hill. Since 2008, he has been teaching at INC-Wilmington as the Tom Kenan Distinguished Professor of Jazz. He is what you call “credentialed.”

With “Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra” (Savant), recorded live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York, Chambers showcases not only his percussion skills but also his composing and arranging. His writing gives him special insights into ensemble-playing (regarding drive and swing, color, dynamics and accesnts) and soloing. A good example is “Irina,” the second movement of his four-part “moving Pictures Suite,” which he opens with a soft-shoe drum solo, kick-starts various horn section entrances, grooves hard behind soloist Tim Green (alto saxophone) and Greg Gisboert (trumpet) and then builds more excitement with a solo of his own. Chambers’ writing is modern – more like something the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra would play rather than Swing Era bands. He is very good at employing atmospheric dissonance (for example, on the ballad “Ruth,” the suite’s third movement, on which he plays a delicate vibes solo followed by a jagged saxophone section chorus).

The concert’s one bow to earlier big band writing is Count Basie’s “Theme from ‘M’ Squad,” which rides comfortably along on Dwayne Burno’s walking bass and features Craig Handy stretching out for a rousing crowd-pleaser tenor saxophone sermon. Vocalist Nicole Guiland appears on a pair of tunes co-composed by the late drummer Max Roach (born in New Land, N.C.): “Lonesome Lover” and “mendacity.” The album ends on a Latin note as Chambers and percussionist Steve Berrios cook on “Clave de Bembe,” the suite’s fourth movement. -Owen Cordle