January 28, 2007

Greg Chambers - City Lights

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Greg Chambers is a young man in a hurry. This former student of classical saxophone at San Jose State University has attended UCLA on a scholarship awarded by the American Youth Symphony and has been one of the winners of the Atwater-Kent All-Star Concerto Competition. In the process he has studied with some of the countries premier classical saxophonists, recorded at Capitol Records, participated in the Idyllwild Arts Summer Festival and taught music in Compton with the Music Partnership Program. If that wasn’t enough he has just received his B.A. in Saxophone Performance from UCLA and is currently working towards his Masters in Music Performance. Despite these classical leanings he cites David Sanborn, Dave Koz, Michael Lington, Steve Cole, Warren Hill, and Gerald Albright as some of his major influences. It’s therefore not surprising that his debut release, City Lights is a rarified blend of the classical and the contemporary.

Truth to tell Greg Chambers ‘doesn’t do funky’, he simply doesn’t need to. With City Lights he has created an album that is so different it breaks new ground into a sub genre perhaps best summed up as ‘smooth classical jazz’. The opening track, ‘This Friday’, the first of ten original compositions, is a great example of the panache Chambers has for music that, in the main, is both melodic and tranquil. In similar vein are ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ and ‘I Burn for You’ while with ‘Chelsea’s Song’ he shifts emotions into something altogether more moody and atmospheric. The tune ripples with the classical vibe that Chambers calls his own and this special sound he seeks to produce also manifests itself in his selection of backing musicians. Isaac Melamed on cello is a case in point. This, the most melancholy of instruments, is rarely found in contemporary jazz yet here in Melamed’s skilled hands it takes the music to another dimension. His playing has a huge impact on the relatively up tempo title track and is a good illustration of how prepared Chambers often is to hand the spotlight to his fellow performers.

Hide Mercury takes center stage for the albums raunchiest track, the full on ‘Full Throttle’. His electric guitar is evocative of Jeff Golub at his wildest yet, in complete contrast, Chambers turns to the classically pure vocals of Karen Vuong for ‘I’ve Let You Down’. Her haunting tones gel delightfully with Chambers stunning sax and another delicious, although this time instrumental, blend is created with ‘Promenade’. This Gaelic tinged mid tempo melody is blessed with more sensational cello from Isaac Melamed and excellent guitar from Hide Mercury. It’s one of the albums better tracks and equally good is ‘Coming Home’. Melamed and Mercury again make outstanding contributions and Chambers turns this luscious mid tempo tune into a real ensemble piece by the subtle addition of Elizabeth Morgan on keyboards. In fact the CD’s best track also features Morgan. Her playing on ‘In Springtime’ is nothing short of beauty personified.

City Lights by Greg Chambers is an album different enough to get him noticed. For more on Greg and for details on how to buy the CD go to www.gregchambersmusic.com

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at January 28, 2007 12:39 PM