Listen Up: Paul Chambers and Paul Motian
As promised, trying to keep up with my new series of blog posts about suggested listenings/reviews. This segment features two amazing artists who rarely get their credit for being band leaders: bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Paul Motian.
The former, most famous for playing with John Coltrane, released an incredible album titled 'Whims of Chambers'. The albums features: Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver, and Philly Joe Jones. If that isn't enough incentive to go out and buy the record, I don't know what I can say to help you. Horace Silver and Kenny Burrell work remarkably well together, managing their comping by staying out of each others way. Burrell's guitar tone matches perfectly with Chambers bass on the blues this album is named after. I'm impressed with Chambers bass prowess. He sounds more prominent on this recording than on Miles Davis or Coltrane records. As it should, Chambers' bass takes the limelight of this entire recording, shining brightly through each track. With this recording, Chambers puts the bass on the map as a melodic instrument and paving the way for future bassists like Niels Henning-Orsted Pedersen. As far as albums with all original tunes, recorded in the latter part of the 1950's, this album shines brightly against them all.
Another original voice, Paul Motian, recorded an album entitled 'Garden of Eden' in 2004; which was released in 2006. The album features an interesting lineup of two saxophones, two (or three) guitars, a bassist and drummer. It's difficult to sense how many guitarists play on each track, because of the layered texture of each piece, but it features: Steve Cardenas, Jakob Bro, and the incredible Ben Monder. Motian creates an incredible sound palette with this instrumentation without having a frontman as traditional jazz ensembles can tend to have. Guitars and saxophones intertwine creating a seamless melodic line, while bassist Jerome Harris lays an expansive foundation of deep bass. There is a high level of reverence amongst these musicians as they play only what is absolutely necessary for a given piece. Motian is nothing but flawless on everything I have heard him play on and this recording is nothing short of flawless. However, it is not his drumming prowess that takes the limelight - it is the overall compositional texture that keeps you guessing at every turn. It is a beautiful album I highly recommend; along with Motian's recording with Bill Frisell and Ron Carter.
This will be a short post as it has been a busy week of practicing, tune memorization, and amplifier issues that have really worn me out. Watch out for another post in the next day or two about current projects and school.
Thanks for reading! Keep listening!
One of all musicians passions is listening to music. After all, we wouldn't have been inspired to play music if we had not heard, or seen, someone do it first. I'm hoping to start a few blog posts about artists and albums worth checking out. Although I am heavily influenced by guitarists, as I am one, there is a multitude of artists out there I am checking out. Hopefully through this Listen Up blog tag I can continually post about who I am listening to at any given time.
My first installment is due largely to my mass uploading of all my CD's onto my iTunes. It's 200+ albums strong right now and I decided I needed to find time each day to simply listen.
The great organist Jimmy Smith has always inspired me. I've loved the sound of the organ since I heard Wes Montgomery with Melvin Rhyne on Wes' recording 'A Dynamic New Sound'. I recently dug into my stash of music and unveiled Jimmy's 'Softly as in a Summer Breeze' album with Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones. It features the aforementioned group on tracks one through four, and then it continues with a changing rhythm section and adds vocalist Bill Henderson. It's a burnin' record! Jimmy Smith plays the daylights out of that organ, and showcases Burrell playing a lot of melodies and great solos. I did not have a bunch of stock in Burrell until I heard this record. He plays so musically and can turn on the scorching at a moments notice. Philly Joe always plays his ass off and this album is no different.
After being led into the world of Kenny Burrell now, thanks to Jimmy Smith, I rediscovered I had the album Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane. Now this is an album! They play unison lines on a 'Freight Trane' and both solo like madmen. It's a little before the full blown "sheets of sound" style Trane went into, but you can sense its inception on a lot of these tracks. It's a fairly bluesy and definitely a listenable jazz album. I know people get caught up on jazz being music for musicians, but this is an album that connects with a wide range of audiences; unlike perhaps some of Trane's later albums.
I've been digging these two albums lately, but I have also put Howard Roberts' albums Good Pickin's and Magic Band II through the ringer as well. Howard is a much loved yet underrated guitarist. It's hard to see this generation behind me coming into place without having dug Howard Roberts. I was fortunate enough to buy a guitar from Gary Brunner at the Arlington Guitar Show about seven years ago. While there Gary parted a lot of great guitar knowledge onto me and gave me a lot to check out. His go-to guitar-guy was Howard Roberts. I wasn't old enough to know anyone in the jazz vein other than Bill Frisell ya'know? So I went out with my newly purchased guitar and found some Howard Roberts to listen to on vinyl. The moment he started playing it was a revelation. He has a clear, concise, but under played tone that really speaks and sometimes growls through a tube amp. He is a beautiful studio player featured on hundreds, if not thousands, of movie scores for years.
My guitar teacher at UCO tells a story about Howard: (all paraphrased from the numerous times I've heard it) "He said Howard was late to a studio recording and it was raining and he didn't have a guitar case. So Howard has a difficult time parking and has to run several blocks with his guitar in the pouring rain. It's hollow and water is sloshing around inside the body and he makes it an hour late to the studio. He apologizes to the director and sets up and nails his part on the first take."
I think that's a true testament to what a great player Howard Roberts was and the impact he left on guitarists to come has been too high to measure. He's not purely a jazz guitarist, but listen to his records, or the two albums mentioned, and you would think there is no possible way he could have time to do other music and play jazz that well too. He is truly an inspiration to me and I do thank Gary Brunner of Van Hoose Vintage for showing me the way to HR.
That should wrap it up for this installment of Listen Up. I will move my focus from guitarists after I relive my love for them a little more this week and try to make this post section a weekly project as the year progresses. Thanks for reading!