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Drummer-composer Matt Chamberlain talks improv and Mint residency

May 22, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • A session drummer who has recently recorded with Bruce Springsteen and Brad Mehldau, Matt Chamberlain brings an eclectic residency to the Mint this month.
A session drummer who has recently recorded with Bruce Springsteen and… (Alex Solca )

Unless you're a regular subscriber to Modern Drummer magazine, the name Matt Chamberlain may not ring immediately familiar to you. If you're a jazz or rock fan, however, you would be amazed how many times you've heard Chamberlain's work in recent years.

Approaching the rarefied, first-call status of fellow session luminaries such as Jim Keltner, Chamberlain's recent credits practically read like an as-yet unbooked Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Chamberlain recently appeared on Bruce Springsteen's album "Wrecking Ball," and previous credits include Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Sugarland and Kanye West. He was even a member of Pearl Jam for a brief period (that's him behind the kit in the group's music video for "Alive").

But as eclectic as his talents may be in the realm of rock, folk and country, it's another genre that lies closest to his heart. "I love improvisational music," he said, speaking by phone while on a break during another recording session. "I love songwriting and crafting drum parts for people’s songs, but there’s nothing like playing with great improvisers and being creative ...  if I could just do that all the time, I would be perfectly happy."

Born in San Pedro but based in Seattle for a number of years while teamed with the influential jazz-rock hybridists Critters Buggin, Chamberlain moved back to L.A. a year ago. In the wake of last month's release of a drum-and-synthesizer-driven solo album, "Company 23," Chamberlain booked a residency at the Mint all this month that showcases his tough-to-pin-down talents in the jazz and jazz-adjacent world.

"It was just a good excuse to get a bunch of [people] together and just explore some stuff," Chamberlain said. "It’s like research and development."

Some of the dates earlier this month included a re-imagining of "Company 23" with Kneebody's Kaveh Rastegar and guitarist Tim Young, and a duo set with guitarist David Torn. This week he assembled a group that includes keyboardist Marco Benevento and former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg, but the finale on May 30 may be the most intriguing in a pairing with guitarist Bill Frisell.

Though Chamberlain and Frisell have worked together a number of times, most recently with the second installment of their in-studio collaboration "Floratone," Chamberlain cautions not to expect a straight-ahead performance of the album.

"He said he just wants to play," Chamberlain said of Frisell. "That was his idea -- 'Let’s not learn anything, let’s just sit down and play some music.'

"We’re always looking for a good excuse to make a bunch of noise," Chamberlain added with a laugh. 

Matt Chamberlain, The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Wed., 8:30 p.m. with Marco Benevento, $15; May 30 with Bill Frisell, 8:30 p.m. $20. themintla.com.

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