Under-appreciated Record Labels: Muse
Selection 1: Catta (Andrew Hill)
Joe Chambers (drums), Cedar Walton (piano), Richard Davis (Fender bass), Omar Clay, David Freidman (percussion), Ray Mantilla (congas) Recorded October 8, 1973
Selection 2: Medina (Joe Chambers)
Joe Chambers (drums), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Garnett Brown (trombone), Harold Vick (flute, tenor sax) George Cables (electric piano), Cecil McBee (bass), recorded February 10, 1971.
Album title a historical reference to The Almoravids, an Islamic Berber Dynasty that ruled a large area of North Africa and Spain during the 11th and 12th century. This empire centered around the city of Marrakesh long before the late ’60s arrival of hippie-trail dormobiles in search utopia: sensual freedom, religious enlightment, and a generous sprinkling of recreational drugs. Chambers no doubt had in mind the association with Sufi Islamic mysticism: his hat is the clue. Despite some Islamic references in its song titles, including a track unfortunately titled “Jihad”, it’s not quite Hollywood sweeping dessert ” ‘Orence of Arabia”, more Yusef Lateef, Eastern Sounds.
The ’60s are gone, amplified instruments appear – Fender bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano – a different aesthetic, moody, darker, no dance party music (or not the sort of parties I went to in the ’70s, where everyone jumped up and down to the Rolling Stones)
Chambers was one of a rare breed of “musical drummers” on a par with Anthony Williams, who hitched a ride with Miles and segued into the ’70s on the fusion bandwagon. Chambers had been the drummer of choice for many of the more exploratory Blue Note titles of the mid to late ’60s, often with composer credits: Freddie Hubbard (check Mirrors on Hubbard’s Breaking Point) Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Bobby Hutcherson ( check the sublime melancholy Idle While, on one of Hutcherson’s finest albums, Dialogue), and Wayne Shorter.
Fitting to open with the Andrew Hill tune, Catta, with its disjointed staccato theme and abstract spaces.On The Almoravids, Chambers first outing as leader the conventional relationship between the rhythm section and the lead instruments is turned inside out, with rhythm in the front line, and brass accompaniment behind. The rhythmic elements are supported by timpani, congas, marimba and miscellaneous things you hit with a mallet or shake.
Four of the tunes are Chamber’s compositions, the others a Joe Zawinul and an Andrew Hill. “I loved that record,” recalled Joe Fields, founder of Muse. “The album was not in sync with a lot of what was happening. It didn’t really sell. But that wasn’t the point at that time.”
Vinyl: Muse MR 5035
The shrink stays! (At least it’s not sealed).
Wiki-source: “Muse founder Joe Fields worked for Prestige in the ’60s. He and producer Don Schlitten cofounded Cobblestone Records in 1972, and soon after founded Muse. Schlitten split with Fields in 1978 to found the Xanadu label, after which Fields held sole control of Muse.” So now you know as much or as little as I do.
Muse is one of those musically interesting jazz labels from the mid ’70s to early ’80s, following the development of artists like Woody Shaw, Richard Davis, and Harold Land, as well as harking back to ongoing work from more conventional jazz from Kenny Burrell, Sonny Stitt, Hank Jones and Pepper Adams. Never expensive on the second-hand market (just scraping in to double figures), occasional with Van Gelder credits, engineered and pressed comfortably before the encroachment of digital technology, sounding characteristically fresh and exciting.
Found in a relatively new store sandwiched between East London’s Hoxton and Hackney ( pronounced by original locals as acne, as in the skin condition, newer arrivals, more like hacker-knee), I had never seen a copy of this album before, and curiosity got the better of me, still fearful of forty minutes of drum solos as might be expected from a title lead by a drummer. What I had overlooked was the composer Joe Chambers, rather than just the drummer: delicate melancholy tunes, harmonically interesting, tinged with different flavours, revealing Chambers’ second instrument to be piano.
This is what’s causing the LJC shelves to bow under “M” for Muse
|MR 5014 Grant Green – Green Blues|
|MR 5019 Sonny Stitt – My Buddy Gene Ammons|
|MR 5035 Joe Chambers – Almoravid, The|
|MR 5037 Phil Woods – Musique Du Bois|
|MR 5058 Woody Shaw – Moontrane, The|
|MR 5061 Cecil Payne – Bird Gets The Worm|
|MR 5083 Richard Davis – With Understanding|
|MR 5093 Richard Davis – As One|
|MR 5139 Woody Shaw – Berliner Jazztage, At the|
|MR 5158 Johnny Lytle – Everything Must Change|
|MR 5153 David Schnitter – Goliath|
|MR 5160 Woody Shaw – Iron Men, The (w/Anthony Braxton)|
|MR 5169 Hank Jones – Groovin’ High|
|MR 5181 Charlie Earland – Infant Eyes|
|MR 5182 Pepper Adams – Reflectory|
|MR 5213 Pepper Adams – Master, The|
|MR 5216 Kenny Burrell – Live At The Village Vanguard|
|MR 5237 Richie Cole – Side By Side (with Phil Woods)|
|MR 5241 Kenny Burrell – Kenny Burrell In New York (Live at Village Vanguard Vol2)|
|MR 5269 Sonny Stitt – Last Sessions Vol 1, The|
|MR 5272 Harold Land – Xocia’s Dance|
|MR 5290 Red Rodney – The Three “r”s|
|MR 5298 Woody Shaw – In The Beginning|
|MR 5318 Woody Shaw – Setting Standards|
|MR 5334 Sonny Stitt – Tune Up!|
Any particular favourites?
Any of the above for a future post?