Monday, February 4, 2013

Greg Chambers After Hours 2013

 Those that roll with me in my cultural inner circle, my musical mafia as it were know when it comes to smooth jazz then I normally take a cordial pass. I have gone so far as to limit my reviews of this radio format/sub genre by trying to focus on the more Independent artist with some more to offer. Let me tell you my friends that all that aside - Greg Chambers is the real deal!

Although listed as a seven track EP, there is a distinct and complete album and working band feel to After Hours. Combine Chambers prolific talents on saxophone along with Paul Brown on guitar, Jonathan Fritzen on piano and synthesizers and some mad mixing skills from Darren Rahn and you wind up with one of the most righteous contemporary instrumental releases from an Independent artist one could find which begs the question - Who will be the major label smart enough to sign this guy?

There are some pet peeves when it comes to taking a walk on the smoother side of jazz which are probably inherently unfair and perhaps take hypercritical to a new level. Sound quality is an issue for some people including myself as some releases sound as they have been sanitized for your protection. Not here, an open and slightly ambient quality plays off the warmth and lyrical sense of purpose that Chambers brings to the table. Programming is another issue but could perhaps be lumped into the overall issue of sound quality. Some producers ride the compression as tight as they can get it and programming turns into a sonic crutch instead of adding a layer of texture to the melodic intention of the piece at hand. Vocals...The number one complaint would be lame vocals on what the listener is expecting or at least would prefer to be an all instrumental release. Simply put, people want to hear Greg Chambers play and not necessarily Chelsea Chambers or Kevin Lewis sing and here they would be dead wrong. The vocals complete the off the charts vibe with an ebb and flow as tight as anyone is laying down today. I must confess as a saxophone player I found myself hitting repeat several times.

Opening with "In The Pocket" featuring a classic Paul Brown guitar solo the table begins to be set and it is full of flavor and just the right amount of texture to keep things interesting. Chambers is as good as any of the players coming out of what often seems to be the assembly line of smooth jazz players yet he has developed a unique artistic voice and command of his horn some more established players are still looking for. Chambers and trumpet player Louis Fasman crush their own version of the classic Dizzy Gillespie tune "Groovin' High." Paul Brown is once again featured on "Chelsea's Song" along with Chelsea Chambers on vocals. Chambers has some dynamite chops and a pristine voice for the classic chill vibe without the pretentious overkill some artists are known for. "Human Nature" aside from being perhaps the only Michael Jackson song I am not totally burned on at this point is reharmed into a soulful groove that the King of Pop would be proud of. Kevin Lewis has some mad vocal skills and bring an R&B crossover appeal to the iconic Jackson song.

Greg Chambers slays the release. This is one of those smooth jazz releases that doesn't try too hard, the music does all the work. It would be easy to overlook this release given the new releases coming out from other talent right now but that would be a crime against music. I rarely do this for a smooth jazz release but Greg Chambers deserves his props.

Tracks: In The Pocket; After Hours; On The Move; Your Place Or Mine?; Groovin' High; Chelsea's Song; Human Nature.

Personnel: Greg Chambers: saxophone, keyboards; synthesizers, drum programming; Paul Brown: guitars; Roberto Valley: bass; Jonathan Fritzen: piano, synthesizers; Ross Bolton: wah guitar; Shahien Shahkar: bass; Ryan Tapley: distorted guitars, wah guitar intro; Kevin Lewis: drums, vocals; Paul Neal: jazz guitar; Louis Fasman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chelsea Chambers: vocals.

Release Date March 26th 2013