It’s not so unusual that Paul Chambers, one of the foremost bass players of modern jazz, made a string of five solo albums between 1956 and ’60. It is unusual, considering Chambers’ standing and the dawning of an equally promising next decade, that 1st Bassman is his last. Another distinctive feature of 1st Bassman is that Yusef Lateef wrote all of the tunes of this enjoyable blowing session, with the exception of a Cannonball Adderley blues, Who’s Blues. Lateef displays unique horn chops as well.
Paul Chambers (bass), Yusef Lateef (tenor sax), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Lex Humphries (drums)
on May 12, 1960 at Bell Sound Studios, NYC
as VJLP 3012 in 1960
Mopp Shoe Blues
The session contains an interesting line-up. Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly made up an elite rhythm unit with drummer Jimmy Cobb, that recorded with John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery. Yusef Lateef was in between his formative years as a recording artist and the period wherein he started to incorporate Eastern influences into his style and had a great stint in The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Drummer Lex Humphries recorded two albums with Lateef during the 1st Bassman-period. Curtis Fuller had been making a name for himself as an astute and soulful trombonist. Trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, finally, had just left Max Roach’s group, where he’d followed in the footsteps of the legendary Clifford Brown.
Not only the line-up is an asset, the impressive drive of Chambers’ walkin’ bass and his outstanding solo abilities contribute to the relevance of this album as well. Lateef graces many tunes with simultanuously idiosyncratic and bluesy tenor and Turrentine’s trumpet style works well within the loose proceedings. However, the straightforward vehicles for blowing in four/four time that Lateef wrote, do tend to get tiresome. Mainly, they’re started off with intricate bass figures and thereafter possess intelligent bass interludes from Chambers and extended horn and piano solos. Ballad Blessed is the black sheep among the herd, containing bowed bass and the muted, lyrical trumpet style of Tommy Turrentine.
Paul Chambers, as is well documented, contributed to a stunning amount of recordings, among them many legendary albums. To name but a few: John Coltrane’s Blue Train and Giant Steps, Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners, Sonny Clark’s Cool Struttin’, Oliver Nelson’s The Blues And The Abstract Truth, Lee Morgan’s Leeway, Miles Davis’ Milestones and Kind of Blue, Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness and Hank Mobley’s Workout. Being in constant demand probably prevented Chambers from recording more solo albums from 1960 to his untimely passing in 1969. 1st Bassman doesn’t rank among his prime performances, but it still is well above average.