Charles Fambrough: Live at Zanzibar Blue

Charles Fambrough is your typical journeyman bassist, represented here fronting his hard-driving bop quintet through Live at Zanzibar Blue (Random Chance) in his hometown of Philadelphia. Fambrough shows the spark that drove Art Blakey’s Messengers during the ’80s. But the mix is uneven, and there are times when Fambrough is not always heard to full advantage. Another problem is a misnumbering of some tracks. (Perhaps that’s why the label is called Random Chance.) The liner notes don’t help. They consist of Fambrough’s reasons for some of his dedications.

Fambrough always provides a firm bass line and a big fat tone. Both qualities can be heard with no difficulty on a beautiful, introspective ballad, “Prayer,” (somewhat suggestive of “Killer Joe”) by pianist Bill O’Connell, and on his own swinger “K-Mac.” “All Blues” is partially funk because of some rockish drumming. Fambrough comes up with some challenging lines that are executed impressively by the front line of trumpeter Sean Jones and soprano saxophonist Joe Ford, particularly the two cooking versions of “Zanzibar Blue.”