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Drummer/vibist Joe Chambers has an enviable resumé, with a string of classic Blue Note sessions as highlights. But he’s also proven himself as a bandleader, with 2021’s Samba de Maracatu as his catalog’s crown jewel. Until now, that is, as his latest LP Dance Kobina may well surpass it. Joined by pianists Andrés Vial and Richard Germanson, bassists Ira Coleman and Mark Lewandowski, Michael Davidson on vibraphone, Caoilainn Power and Marvin Carter on saxophone, and Eli Miller Maboungu and Emilio Valdes Cortes on percussion, Chambers channels melodies and rhythms from South American, Latin American, and African sources, and makes them all come out hard bop.
Chambers’ “Ruth” puts melody first as it swings gently and percolates decisively. Vial’s “City of Saints” finds Chambers playing under, over and around the rhythm, while Power plays a brooding melody, the composer comps with atmospheric taste, and Davidson solos like a demon. Power leads Chambers’ bluesy “Gazelle Suite,” while Germanson and Chambers double up on the riff powering Joe Henderson’s “Power To the People.” Vial’s title track encapsulates what the record is all about, with a great tune, exciting rhythmic drive, and some serious swing. With his musicians firing on all cylinders and himself in complete command on Dance Kobina, Chambers presents as cohesive and coherent a vision as any jazz fan is lucky to find.