"Mirrors" was the
first Joe Chambers composition ever recorded; it was issued in 1964 on a Freddie Hubbard
date, Breaking Point. That record also marked Joes Blue Note debut; the
drummer, then 22, had recently arrived in the Big Apple after several years of gigging in
Washington, D.C. Chambers soon became one of the most recorded artists on the labels
roster, playing and writing for sessions led by Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson and Wayne
Shorter, among others. By the end of the decade, however, with acoustic jazz overshadowed
by the rock revolution, Joe left Blue Note to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
He has continued to perform, compose and record in a variety of musical
contexts, never quite achieving the notoriety of his Blue Note years. Mirrors
reunites at last this multi-faceted artist with his original record company; amazingly
enough, it is also his first date as a leader for Blue Note. Chambers offers up seven
originals, including two brand new pieces, performed by a dynamic quintet. In fact, the
caliber of these musicians, and their interpretations of these compositions, recall the
mid-60s heyday of the label, when Blue Note came to represent quality, innovation and
individuality for many jazz listeners.
Chambers is in top form throughout, from the nouveau New Orleans
rhythms of "Tu-Way-Pock-E-Way" to the surging rimshots and vibrant cymbal-play
of "Mariposa." He also demonstrates his vibraphone mastery on two tracks,
"Lady in My Life" and "Circles." The latter, a new tune, is a
percolating percussion discussion, with Joe accompanying himself on trap drums.
The rest of the band is superb as well: trumpeter Eddie Henderson,
saxophonist Vincent Herring, pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Ira Coleman. Abetted by
their leader, they even manage to transform pop pabulum by Janet and Michael Jackson into
classic jazz balladry. For a demonstration of their ample chops, listen to the solos on
"Mariposa"controlled abandon and pure improvising joy.
Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 1999