An excellent straight ahead jazz guitarist from the United Kingdom, Dave Chamberlain has a swinging style, a quiet sound, and a swing-to-bop approach to the guitar. Among the influences that he has named, one can hear touches of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, George Benson and Joe Pass in his playing during On The Back Foot but he has an original style within the tradition. He has also doubled on bass throughout his career although he sticks exclusively to guitar on this set, his recording debut as a leader.
For On The Back Foot, Chamberlain is joined by pianist Ross Stanley, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and, on half of the selections, tenor-saxophonist Dave O'Higgins. The musicians have a deep understanding of the idiom and are all strong assets to the music. The program is a diverse set of standards plus three of the leader's originals.
The opening “Claude's Capers” is a minor-toned hard bop piece that would fit perfectly into any late 1950s band's repertoire. The melody is infectious, a cool atmosphere pervades, and there are fine solos by Stanley, Chamberlain and Gascoyne. The warm ballad “Too Late Now” splits the melody between guitar and piano with Chamberlain caressing the theme throughout his solos.
“My Shining Hour” adds O'Higgins to the group. This rendition swings hard as does Wayne Shorter's “Speak No Evil.” The latter has a particularly adventurous guitar solo that is also a bit bluesy. “Lonely Town” has Chamberlain and O'Higgins sharing the melody and gives the peaceful tune a melancholy mood.
Dave Chamberlain's “Minor Altercation” is a minor-toned piece that should become a standard. The trio clearly had a good time digging into that tune. “On The Back Foot,” which has one of Chamberlain's most expressive solos, is a catchy blues that builds throughout the performance.
Duke Ellington's obscure 1930s song “Serenade To Sweden” is a vehicle for an unusual but successful guitar-tenor duet. The swing standard “I'll Get By” is normally a ballad, so this modernized uptempo version transforms it into a brand new song.
After Chamberlain plays a tasteful solo guitar rendition of Chopin's “Etude In E Major,” the trio swings hard on Charlie Parker's “Dewey Square.” Johnny Hodges' classic “Squatty Roo” concludes the set with some rousing playing by the quartet.
On The Back Foot is a set that will be enjoyed by fans of straight ahead jazz, bebop and the jazz guitar. Dave Chamberlain shows throughout this easily recommended CD that he is a superior improviser and a guitarist who clearly has a strong future.
Scott Yanow, author of eleven books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film