The venerated multi-instrumentalist and composer Joe Chambers has released Samba de Maracatu, a notable Blue Note Records return for a significant figure in the label’s history.
Chambers’ new album is a nine-song set of original compositions, standards, and pieces by Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, and Horace Silver that features Chambers performing drums, vibraphone, and percussion with Brad Merritt on keyboards and Steve Haines on bass. Special guests include vocalist Stephanie Jordan on a simmering version of “Never Let Me Go,” and MC Parrain on “New York State of Mind Rain,” an inventive mashup of Nas’ 1994 hip-hop staple “N.Y. State of Mind” and Chambers’ 1978 piece “Mind Rain,” which DJ Premiere sampled to construct Nas’ classic.
On Samba de Maracatu, Chambers asserts himself more as a mallet player, particularly on the vibraphone. Throughout the album, he uses the vibraphone as the lead melodic and improvisational voice that often converses with Merritt’s piano accompaniments and solos. While Samba de Maracatu isn’t a Brazilian jazz album in this strictest sense, Chambers utilizes various rhythms and indigenous Brazilian percussion instruments on several pieces, including the title track, which references the syncretic Afro-Brazil rhythms that were originated in the north-east region of Brazil.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, Chambers played drums for numerous Blue Note luminaries appearing on some of the decade’s most progressive albums including Shorter’s Adam’s Apple and Etcetera, Hutcherson’s Components and Happenings, Freddie Hubbard’s Breaking Point, Joe Henderson’s Mode for Joe, Sam Rivers’ Contours, McCoy Tyner’s Tender Moments, Andrew Hill’s Andrew!!!, Donald Byrd’s Fancy Free, and many more.
The label’s owners – Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff – offered Chambers a chance to record his own album for the legendary imprint during that fertile period, but he was riding so high on recording and touring with so many jazz greats that he declined the opportunity. Chambers eventually did release his own Blue Note debut Mirrors in 1998 featuring trumpeter Eddie Henderson, saxophonist Vincent Herring, pianist Mulgrew Miller, and bassist Ira Coleman.
Samba de Maracatu is out now and can be bought here.