Sunday, March 5, 2023

Pierre L. Chambers: “Shining Moments” (2023) CD Review

Pierre L. Chambers is a vocalist who has been performing for several decades and yet never released a solo album until now. His debut album, Shining Moments, features some excellent and fresh renditions of standards, along with a couple of poems set to music. On this disc, he is backed by some talented musicians, including Karen Hammack on piano, Henry Franklin on bass, Clayton Cameron on drums, Jeff Kaye on flugelhorn, Dori Amarillo on guitar, and Cathy Segal-Garcia on backing vocals. Cathy Segal-Garcia also produced this album.

He opens the disc with a groovy rendition of “Work Song.” While the rhythm is delicious, and the track contains some really good stuff on drums, it is his earnest vocal performance that is the driving force behind this version. It is a performance that rings true because of the experience in his voice. He delivers some good scat halfway through. This track also features some nice work on piano, as well as a good lead on guitar. That’s followed by “My Favorite Things.” It’s funny, I was just talking about this song, and how I greatly prefer instrumental versions of it, for the lyrics don’t really do much for me, and then along comes this vocal rendition that provides a new appreciation of the song. Pierre L. Chambers makes this work. On a phrase like “when I’m feeling sad,” the emotion is present (often it seems lacking on renditions of this song). This rendition also features some excellent work by Karen Hammack on piano. And I love the way Pierre L. Chambers delivers that final line, “I don’t feel so bad.” Ah, yes.

As “The Nearness Of You” begins, his vocals are at the fore, supported by some wonderful work on bass. “It’s not the pale moon that excites me/That thrills and delights me/Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” What a great vocal performance. This song, which we’ve heard countless times, feels fresh, feels new, feels personal. It’s more than a minute into the track before the other musicians join him. The bass still plays a key role in this rendition, with Henry Franklin delivering a good lead halfway through. And then listen to the way Pierre L. Chambers delivers these lines: “When you’re in my arms/And I feel you so close, so close to me/All my wild, my wildest dreams come true/I need no soft light to enchant me/If you’d only, if you’d only grant me/The right to hold you ever so tight.” Love and romance thrive here. He then covers “Dear Ann,” a song written by his father, the great bassist Paul Chambers. This bossa nova rendition contains a good deal of cheer, particularly in his vocal performance. “Such love I am blessed to know.” The lyrics were written by Pierre L. Chambers. He follows that with “This Mother,” a poem Pierre dedicates to his mother. “This mother gave herself freely/Protected, cared for her young fiercely, like a lion/This mother laughed out loud/And cried when her children hurt/Forbidding some of our dreams/Because she feared harm would come to us/This mother vowed never to let one of her children fight for this country/That had destroyed so many black men.” His delivery is backed by Karen Hammack on piano. He gets into his mother’s love of jazz, which clearly influenced him. “A mother’s death is never accepted/And leaves children wanting.”

Pierre L. Chambers delivers an interesting take on “Paper Moon.” Like “My Favorite Things,” he gives fresh life to this well-known song, making it breathe, and adding some rather joyful scat. I also love that work on bass. That’s followed by “Lonely Girl.” Jeff Kaye delivers some wonderful work to start this gentle and lovely rendition, the horn having a gorgeously lonesome tone, expressing a longing. This track also features a touching vocal performance, and some beautiful work on piano. “You’re afraid of love, torrid and tender/Once I dreamed we’d share moments of splendor/Wish that I could have shown you.” This is another of the disc’s highlights. Things turn cheerful again with “My Shining Hour,” where the dreams seem to be true. “In my dreams your face will flower/Through the darkness of the night.” The band is grooving here, and the track includes a lead on bass in the second half. That is followed by “The Way You Look Tonight,” a song I love, and one that frequently gets in my head. Pierre L. Chambers delivers a sweet rendition, featuring some excellent work on piano. This track makes me happy, taking me back to certain moments with my love, and making me look forward to more wonderful nights with her. “Oh, you’re lovely/Never ever change/Keep that breathless charm.”

Earlier on the album, Pierre L. Chambers offered a tribute to his mother, and in “My Father,” he pays tribute to his father, and the influence he had on his life. On this spoken word piece, he is backed by bass, fittingly. “I used to stare at his bass/Leaning in the corner of the bedroom/At the foot of the bed/In between the bed and the dresser/Where my brother placed it for safe keeping/It watched us sleep at night.” By the way, the disc’s liner notes contain three more poems. The album then concludes with an excellent and heartfelt rendition of “Afro Blue,” featuring some wonderful work on drums. I appreciate the joy in the playing, leaving all who listen in a better place.

CD Track List

  1. Work Song
  2. My Favorite Things
  3. The Nearness Of You
  4. Dear Ann
  5. This Mother
  6. Paper Moon
  7. Lonely Girl
  8. My Shining Hour
  9. The Way You Look Tonight
  10. My Father
  11. Afro Blue

Shining Moments is scheduled to be released on March 17, 2023 on Dash Hoffman Records.

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