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Joe Chambers - Mirrors
Blue Note
By Chuck Obuchowski

    "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 Joe’s 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 label’s 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

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