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Joe Chambers

This long-anticipated date by drummer Chambers, his first domestic production since the mid-'70s, is the personification of what modern jazz in the '90s can be. Immaculately played and programmed, collectively inspired by brilliant musicianship, and triggered by the creative juices of its fearless leader, the date commands interest throughout, and upon repeated listenings. That's the mark of a truly great recording. Chambers explores many veins of contemporary jazz, from the New Orleans-derived, modern modal "Tu-Way-Pock-E-Way," the Jazz Messenger-ish title track, the darker, modal "Caravanserai," the tearjerker "Ruth," and the more hopeful, upbeat trio finale "Ruthless" to the delicate take on Janet Jackson's "Come Back to Me." The middle section hints at Chambers' polyphonic notions, on the fast samba modification of Andrew Hill's "Catta" (previously recorded on Chambers' '70s Muse/32 Jazz date The Almoravid) retitled "Mariposa," plus a more multi-instrumental focus; there are overdubs of vibes and drums with the trio of astounding pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Ira Coleman on Rod Temperton's "Lady in My Life," and more as Chambers duets with himself on drums and vibes for "Circles." Saxophonist Vincent Herring and trumpeter Eddie Henderson are lockstep in harmonic interplay, forming a frontline that is as attractive as any. The rhythm section can do no wrong, and Chambers is right on with every step. In case you hadn't heard, Chambers is one of the all-time greats, as he proves on every track of this exceptional modern jazz date. Footnote: Chambers is also a fine pianist, yet another side that hopefully will come to the forefront on a follow-up that we should not have to wait twenty years for. ~ Michael G. Nastos