Friday, September 21, 2012

The Blakey-Chambers duets

On Sunday, March 29, 1959, right between the two sessions that gave us Kind of Blue, the bassist on those, Paul Chambers (age: 23) and veteran drummer Art Blakey (age: 39) seemed to have got early to a recording session led by Sonny Clark.

According to Michael Cuscuna, who unearthed these tapes in the 1970s:
[...] another odd early find in the Blue Note vaults. I was systematically going through every reel of every unissued session. When I put on the first reel of an unissued March 29, 1959 Sonny Clark session, which was ultimately released as My Conception, there was not a piano note to be heard. The first two takes were spectacular performances of "I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" and "What Is This Thing Called Love" by what could be none other than Paul Chambers and Art Blakey. I never did find out why these came about (perhaps the rest of the band was late), but I’m glad they did.

Glad indeed. If Chambers and Blakey always maintained a very high standard in all their recordings, here, with nowhere to hide, they both give a masterclass in what a rhythm section should be. Without horns, Blakey can afford to be more subtle, which only makes him swing more, not less, as you can hear in "What Is This Thing Called Love?". In this less-is-more vein, Blakey's tour de force is actually, at least to my ears, the slower but still brisk Irving Berlin tune. His versatility with the drum set, or even something so simple-sounding like his playing behind Chambers's opening solo, is mesmerizing.

Available on Mosaic Select: Paul Chambers, and on Art Blakey's Drums Around the Corner

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