FAME Review: The Phil Chester Group - Open Door Samba
The Phil Chester Group - Open Door Samba

Open Door Samba

The Phil Chester Group

Available from CD Baby

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Phil Chester and his jazz cats cite a particular music mode in the title to their Open Door Samba, but the first part of the appellation is equally applicable: the portal here is thrown wide to a number of styles, well shown in the rambunctious Kyrie, which is far from the solemn kinda High Mass gig you might suspect from the big ol' Catholic churchy down the street. Pianist Bob Quaranta gets to really cut loose on that number just before everyone slides into the chamber balladry of Second Son, in which Chester's sax work approaches that of a somber wistfully smiling flute, soon followed by a lazy, throaty, resonant bass solo (Leo Huppert). Much of the time, though, Chester's work is bright and upbeat, a lot like, as composer Billy Edd Wheeler once famously put the metaphor, a 'high flying bird'.

Second Son is one of several cuts adding strings, and the chamber beauty of the composition is very much in line with Windham Hill's touching such opuses, here with a CTI modernity rather than the more Byzantine baroquities Ackerman & Co. produced so adeptly later in the imprint's history. Where Will evoked Oregon, however, Phil conjures Paul Horn in a style inviting classicalism to shake hands with the late 60s / early 70s. It is, I probably needn't add, my favorite track of the gig; I'm a sucker for this kind of transcendent work. But then, the sparkle and élan of the opening cut puts just as big a grin on my mien as well as a boppy little clickstep to my pulse.

Open Door Samba is exactly the sort of album I used to haunt Platterpuss Records (a store either in Hermosa Beach or Paradise, I forget which) in search of in the 70s, a well-ordered jumble of myriad influences so artfully wrought that one forgot that aspect while wallowing in hedonistic pleasures and intellectual analysis (itself a form of hedonism), both in equal measure, neither dominating. Again, Kyrie is the perfect example, commencing in expected formalisms before tripping the lights fantastic. I don't know if it's me or the times, but Chester and his group demonstrate why having a back history in music so much enhances present pleasures, the upshot of which is: forget us critics and our words, just listen. All we do is open the door; you're the one who has to walk through. That's what really matters.

Track List:

  • Open Door Samba
  • Pastor J
  • Water
  • Round the Block
  • Earth and Sky
  • Kyrie
  • Second Son
  • April Bossa
  • Yin and Yang
  • Pogi's Plight
  • Waltz for Fern
  • Cactus Blues
All songs written by Phil Chester.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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