Joe Chambers: The Almoravid (1971/3) Muse

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Album title a historical reference to The Almoravids, an Islamic Berber Dynasty that ruled a large area of North Africa  and Spain during the 11th and 12th century.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.



Collector’s Corner

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!


LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30Any Muse titles you would recommend?

Any particular favourites?

Any of the above for a future post?


40 thoughts on “Joe Chambers: The Almoravid (1971/3) Muse

  1. I don’t know if LJC or anyone will see this, given the time elapsed from the post, but I’ve been making my way through the archives of this wonderful blog and upon seeing an open call for more Muse recommendations I had to chime in with Jaki Byard’s “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (MR 5007). The first–of many–Muse titles that really exceeded my expectations, it features Byard alone romping with through stride, blues, bebop, and avant garde with his indefatigable style. Really fun, rewarding listening!

  2. Good to see Muse get some attention. I always look at them hard when I run across any lps on the label. The only downside for me is vinyl quality is not as good as it could be which might explain the popularity of the 32Jazz cds. The music is usually first rate. The Almoravid may be my favorite of all.

  3. A few great ones that haven’t been mentioned:
    Bill Barron – Variations In Blue (+ 2 others)
    Al Cohn & Zoot Sims – Body & Soul
    Jr. Cook – Good Cookin, & Somethin’s Cookin’ ( you know they’re good because of the lack of Gs)
    Bill Hardman – Home (+2 others)
    Hank Jones – Bop Redux

    • Thanks for the suggestions, always useful. I picked up Bill Hardmans’ Muse – “Politely” recently. Its an outstanding sounding record and one of the (+2 Others) I assume. Great thing is they have little dealer recognition, embarrassingly inexpensive. It will be in a post at some point.

  4. Woody “Shaw in the beginning”

    • Thanks for the original post! I found a copy at the most unpleasant record shop in the San Francisco Bay Area $18. The cover was down right dirty and in Good (poor) condition. But it had a. KJAZZ label on it. So some interesting provinence! Vinyl fortunately was VG++ and promo. And the music one of a kind….

  5. funkyousounds has several great muse albums on ebay right now, but only this one is really high, in the $45 range if i recall. LJC, you sway the market!

    • I take full responsibility. I purchased three Muse albums on Discogs before pressing the PUBLISH button. When you know you make waves, you anticipate the swell.

      • well, you have raised the value of a few of my nice records, so thanks for that, anyway. haha.

  6. Clifford Jordan Night of the Mk. VII
    Anything by the Visitors
    Roy Brooks The Free Slave
    Carlos Garnett Black Love

    I’m after a copy of Harold Vick Commitment

    Love Muse

  7. I JUST bought a copy of Sonny Stitt 12! with Barry Harris, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. How can you go wrong with that lineup!!

  8. does anyone think muse will eventually be collectible and considered rare? i don’t particularly care either way, and i have my doubts, but i do believe prices will eventually go up at least a bit. for some of the more famous titles, such as roy brooks’ “free slave”, going rates are already above $25 or so….

    • Yes muse titles are going up price wise. Less than five years ago I could find most of them in 4.99$ range!

  9. Some of my favorites are Buster Williams – Pinnacle, Dom um Romão (st) and all titles by Earl & Carl Grubbs (the Visitors) and Carlos Garnett.
    Greetings from Brazil (just vacation)!

  10. Another Muse gem to me is Joe Chambers Double Exposure. Half piano half drums duo with Larry Young on B3 with a wonderful take in Chamber’s Hello to the Wind.

  11. In my opinion Muse was the best and most consistent Jazz label of the 70s. Some would argue Strata East, but when you look at the depth of the catalog and the consistency of the music, I think the nod has to go to Muse.

    They carried the torch that Blue Note held, iron-fisted, for twenty-some years into the ’70s and made probably hundreds of just really-good jazz records. There’s some fusion on the label, but there’s also some of the best Hard Bop of the era.

    Woody Shaw (everything he did on the label is worth owning), Roy Brooks’ “Free Slave,” Cedar Walton Trio w/ Clifford Jordan at Boomers (1 & 2), Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss (Criss Craft – “This Is For Benny” is amazing!) Don Patterson, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath, Joe Bonner, Kenny Barron, Clifford Jordan’s records, Pat Martino, Hank Jones, Pepper Adams, Charles Earland, The Visitors. It just goes on and on. I really feel like after Blue Note and Prestige, the Muse catalog is about as strong as any other.

    Oddly enough, the out-of-print 32Jazz CD Reissues (with some of the most blasphemous re-designed artwork in the history of the music industry) usually go for big dollars on the 2nd-Hand market – more than the LPs.

    As for this Joe Chambers – I only have a digital copy and haven’t listened to it in years. I remember it being a little too overwhelming for my tastes, despite all the talent on board. The samples here sound great though; so I’ll have to go revisit.

    A tip of the cap to you sir. Great find.

      • Ha! Indeed. Just such a great label that doesn’t have the “prestige” of Blue Note or…Prestige, but certainly worthy. Love my Muse Records.

  12. Muse is one of those labels that if I come across a title in the wild that I don’t have; I buy it regardless of whether I’ve heard of it or not.

    • me too, with but a few exceptions. the sonny stitt titles are too numerous for ALL of them to be good! but i ALWAYS look at the back cover and check out the material if I see a muse. i buy it more often than not.

  13. Also Hank Jones…Groovin’ High. 1978 RVG recording..with Sam Jones, Thad Jones, Charles Rouse, Mickey Roker…the old masters in fine form..excellent recording and Vinyl too!

  14. Pepper Adams Frank Foster. Generations, Yes to Criss craft with Dolo Coker. Also reissue of hard to find Rocky Boyd. Ease it . As Kenny Dorham Ease it.

    • Yeah that Rocky Boyd/Kenny Dorham is killer. Pete La Roca on drums. Love it. I have the Rocky reissue. Great record. Have that Adams/Foster too. Pepper Adams’ stuff for the label is excellent.

  15. cecil payne: bird gets the worm
    pepper adams: reflectory AND the master
    albert heath: kwanza
    lou donaldson: back street
    ricky ford: manhattan plaza
    jaki byard: family man
    cecil payne/duke jordan: brooklyn brothers
    richard davis: epistrophy/now’s the time
    woody shaw: moontrane (previous LJC post, hipped me to it!)
    roy brooks: the free slave

    all great, all highly, highly recommended

    • Ah yes…Ricky Ford on Muse. Glad you mentioned him. Put him on the list of under-appreciated tenor players. His work with Abdullah Ibrahim is especially worth hearing.

  16. This one looks great, definitely a killer lineup of musicians. Good call on “Idle While” one of my favorite early Hutcherson compositions.

    All of Woody Shaw’s work on Muse is worth seeking out, and Roy Brooks “The Free Slave” is an amazing live record (also with Shaw). I guess Muse was into giving the drummer’s a chance to shine.

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