In speaking of a legendary and deeply impactful 50’s and 60’s hard bop bassist, renowned jazz critic Martin Williams once said, “A handy explanation of ‘swing’ might be ‘any two successive notes played by Paul Chambers.’” Over 50 years since Chambers’ passing, his son Pierre L. Chambers, a prominent veteran vocalist with a long history of performing in NYC and L.A., carries on that legacy of swing admirably, with an artful balance between amiability and adventurous excitement on the bulk of the tunes populating his long awaited debut solo album, the perfectly titled Shining Moments.
In many ways, the album is a melodic, rhythmic and harmonic dual treat, introducing us to the singer’s deeply soulful and nimble baritone buoyed tastefully by the crisp, sparkling, nimble and tasteful production of L.A jazz treasure Cathy Segal-Garcia. Though bursting and bustling with the swift, joyous energy of dynamic romps through well-worn standards like “Work Song,” “My Favorite Things,” “Paper Moon” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” the collection would merely be an impressive debut without the key autobiographical touches that personalize the experience for the singer and introduce the seeds of his flourishing artistry to listeners.
Three pieces take us back to his roots, where his parents’ collective deep jazz influences colored his childhood and laid a foundation for a multi-faceted future career. The bright and snappy, bossa-ized spin through his dad’s piece “Dear Ann” features Chambers’ romantic lyrics. Also renowned as a poet, the artist poignantly reflects on and pays homage to “This Mother” and “My Father,” spoken word pieces with simple accompaniment, the first featuring pianist Karen Kammack, the one for his dad appropriately underscored by bassist Henry Franklin.
In the latter, he speaks of feeling safe when his father’s bass was in the bedroom of his grandmother’s house and his hope that the instrument could somehow connect him to Paul, who passed away in his early 30’s. Closing with an emphatic, triumphant version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” (featuring the haunting wordless vocals of Segal-Garcia) is a powerful way to pay tribute to the African American experience and culture that shaped him.
With a mix of effortless jazzy cool and deeper heartfelt expressions, Chambers is a true unsung musical hero whose passion as an artist we’re only beginning to discover. For those who get the CD version of Shining Moments, he also generously includes three other poems in the insert.