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Paul Chambers/Wynton Kelly: The Complete Vee Jay Paul Chambers-Wynton Kelly Sessions 1959-61

Bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly play together on all but three titles here. They formed two-thirds of Miles Davis’ rhythm section, and after they left him in 1963 they formed the Wynton Kelly Trio with the addition of the other third, drummer Jimmy Cobb. Cobb appears on most of the tracks on this six-CD set, recorded between 1959 and 1961, and when he doesn’t his replacement is Davis’ previous drummer, Philly Joe Jones. Not surprisingly there’s some great rhythm-section work here. Outstanding hornmen appear as well: trumpeters Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Tommy Turrentine and Booker Little, alto saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and Frank Strozier, trombonist Curtis Fuller and tenormen Yusef Lateef and Wayne Shorter.

The earliest material here is by Chambers’ quintet with Hubbard and Adderley and sextet with Turrentine, Lateef and Fuller. Hubbard makes one of his earliest recorded appearances, but his style already is quite original, although it would continue to evolve. His long lines and harmonic daring indicate that John Coltrane had a strong impact on him, as well as Clifford Brown. Technically he’s brilliant, and plays with a big, brassy tone and command in all registers. Like Hubbard, Adderley is impressive, contributing hard swinging, imaginative spots.

The Chambers sextet set contains performances of five distinctive and relatively tightly arranged charts by Lateef. The soloists here do a fine job of making their work consistent with the character of the compositions. Chambers’ work is prominently featured, and he plays thoughtfully as well as exhibiting his vaunted chops.

A Frank Strozier date has him and Little in the front line. It establishes that Strozier was one of the top postbop alto men, an inventive, fiery but disciplined player with a style that was original, though having some resemblance to Jackie McLean’s. Little, an amazing talent, might have had a career that rivaled Hubbard’s, but he died at 23. Spurred by the work of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb, the two play with great intensity, fluidity and daring. It’s a shame that Strozier hasn’t received more attention. He was part of a 1963 Miles Davis group that didn’t record. If it would’ve, Strozier might have gotten more notice.

Davis’ former rhythm section joins with Art Blakey’s front line on a somewhat disappointing Kelly quintet date with Morgan and Shorter. Morgan plays too conservatively, and uses his mute too much; he had a far better open horn sound, Shorter’s tentative and erratic, and Kelly employs too many cliches.

The remaining tracks are trios that find Kelly in good form. A very influential pianist, he synthesized the styles of Bud Powell and Red Garland to create his own approach. His groove-oriented work swings constantly; partly due to his excellent sense of time, and contains a nice balance of melodic and funky playing.

Overall this set contains prime and representative postbop work by some of its major performers.

Originally Published