4 1/2 STARS
Do different geographies create different sounds? New York-hard and brassy, in your face and boppish; the Nordic countries - cool and reflective, spacious and dreamy; the American Midwest, Chicago and Detroit -- soulful and hip with a hard urban edge. This is, of course, a simplification, with exceptions flying all over the place, but distinct similarities in sounds can be found in various locales, owed probably more to a certain level of local and/or stablemate nepotism than the local culture or particular cityscapes or landscapes.
With ruminations on those thoughts in mind, if one were listening for a specific "Seattle Sound," Chamber 3's drummer, Matt Jorgensen, as a leader and sideman, would be a good starting point. Whether it's with his own group, Matt Jorgensen + 451, or backing guitarist Corey Christiansen, trumpeter Thomas Marriott or sitting in the drum chair of the group Human Spirit, Jorgensen's distinctive style shifts fluidly from propulsive to painterly and poetic, driving the music forward and/or painting pastel backdrops and broad vista landscapes, while adding dashes of bright color in just the right spots.
Chamber 3, presenting the album Grassroots, is Jorgensen's international small group, teaming the Seattle-based drummer with German saxophonist Steffen Weber and German guitarist Christian Eckert, with, this time out, the very welcome addition of bassist Phil Sparks to the mix. The sound is "chamber-like," with a equality of input. Eckert, like all the "chording guys" Jorgensen works with, can play tight, tasteful lines and also take things into adventurous harmonic territory. Weber plays with restraint, subtlety and precision, riding the waves of the groove.
Looking for parallel sounds or musical visions, Chamber 3 can be compared to drummer Paul Motian's ECM Records outings with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, an exceptional and groundbreaking group that perhaps could have benefited from the addition of a bassist. Chamber 3 adds Phil Sparks in that spot, his solid sound making the mix a bit less diaphanous, less spacious than Motian's.
Every group Jorgensen is involved in has a modern tinge. Part of it is musician choices, part is the tune-smithing, and part of it is his drumming—intricate and full of nuanced surprises, and always such unusual, compelling and captivating grooves. Grassroots, a particularly fine and very modern-sounding recording, has all of this.