Pianist and trumpeter Neal Chandek (1955-2022) Courtesy Transfer Pizzeria Cafe
Music makes for memory that lives on, in the deep vibration and pulse of life everlasting.
Multiple-Grammy-winning trumpeter-composer Brian Lynch has done eloquent honor to a dear friend and to some of his musical roots by posting his composition “Chandek’s Den,” on the Facebook link to my blog tribute to Neal Chandek, 1 the remarkable Milwaukee keyboardist and trumpeter who died last week of complications of Covid-19, at 66.
When he still lived in Milwaukee, Lynch was a once a roommate of Chandek’s, and his composition honors the open-door crib that Chandek maintained in Riverwest for backroom jamming and music listening during the 1980s and early ’90s. This was when Lynch, Chandek, and the pianist on this album, David Hazeltine, were among a generation of musicians coming of age during a Renaissance for jazz in Milwaukee. I delve into this story in my forthcoming book Voices in the River: The Jazz Message to Democracy.
Lynch’s composition is a superb historical signifier of that era. He actually wrote it for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the legendary jazz ensemble for which he played trumpet in its final edition. “Chandek’s Den” was recorded on Blakey’s album Chippin’ In, but this is a recording by Lynch’s own quintet on his 1989 album Backroom Blues, and the album title itself evokes that informal scene of creative ferment and dialogue.
The tune is characteristic of Lynch’s writing, with a sinuous, tricky, 16-bar theme in a propulsively swinging but easy blues mode, the sort of groove you might hear at a classic straight-ahead jam session, say, at Chandek’s Den. Though the extended theme is played in tight harmony, it has a give-and-take feel, resembling players in musical conversation. The soloing sections are highlighted by Milwaukee-native Hazeltine’s piano solo, which has a nimble, “leapin’ and lopin’ ” quality, reminiscent of the great post-bop pianist Sonny Clark.
The saxophonist is Javon Jackson, the bassist is Peter Washington and the drummer is the great Lewis Nash.
Here’s “Chandek’s Den” — for Neal, and for everyone he ever played with, hung with, entertained and enlightened.
1 My blog remembrance of Neal Chandek: