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Joe Chambers: Landscapes

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As a performer, Joe Chambers plays several roles on Landscapes. He stands front and center on the vibraphone, and he brings up the rear on trap kit. On “Havana” he ups the ante even further by adding bongos, marimba and congas to the mix. On the title track he sits at the piano for a solo recital. Chambers of course is skilled on all of them, and a formidable composer. The album has the potential to be a fiery session, yet it comes up short.

Part of this might be attributed to the way it was made. Chambers laid down the drum tracks together with pianist Rick Germanson and bassist Ira Coleman, leaving room for the vibes and overdubbing them later, in crisp and captivating audio. But the drums get pushed back into the mix, in both sound and interaction, and the group doesn’t seem as engaged as it should be. “Havana” is more showcase than song, and a synthesizer loop diminishes its impact.

Landscapes does have some strong moments. “Epistrophy” kicks off with a bembé groove before Coleman’s bass takes the spotlight. Chambers proves himself an introspective pianist on “Landscapes.” Two Horace Silver pieces raise the energy level. But the rest simply sounds a little too polite. It’s understandable why a drummer of Chambers’ authority wouldn’t want to cede the chair to someone else, but next time, doing so might add some spark to the session.

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