A ‘Gathering’ of music
“He has gathered himself up in music forever today.”
So reads the inside sleeve of Chuck Lamb’s eighth album, “The Gathering.”
And so plays the man.
Lamb’s eclectic style of music involves a gathering of ideas, concepts, spirituality and influence – all of which can be found in the album. The album changes smoothly from light yet definitive piano strokes around the rhythm of shakers and a synth in the opening track, “Prime Directive,” to the joyful beat and his wife, Theano’s, soulful vocal improv in “Grand Yasoo,” to Chuck’s classical composition, “Lennon.”
And don’t miss the Three Stooges’ Curly with track transition with a faint yet distinguishable “Poifect! Nya, nya, nya…” Jazzy tones underlie the album giving it a fun and playful feel, overall. And it remains true to the Lambs’ definition of their music.
Theano is her husband’s most influential of critics and supporters. But after nearly 20 years, that comes as no surprise.
“Theano and I collaborate a lot on projects,” says Lamb. “We usually write (music) together.”
But today, and every apres ski Tuesday through Saturday from 4-7 p.m., Chuck Lamb is solo.
He sits at a beautiful, black grand piano in the middle of the King’s Club in the Sonnenalp Resort, surrounded by apres skiers who are gathered in small, intimate groups around candlelit tables. Lamb’s curly ponytail drapes the shoulders of his taupe sports jacket, reminding me of a philosophy professor who may or may not have taught me.
I choose a comfortable seat near the piano and stretch out my legs, happy to take the pressure off my clunky, ski-booted feet and Eugene, a waiter with a professional yet light-hearted demeanor, promptly appears to light the candle on my table and take my order. It feels like a European hunting club. Wide, arched doorways connect the two main rooms of the King’s Club giving it an open appearance. A large stone fireplace warms one corner while gazelle antlers rest on walls of the comfortable lounge.
Lamb is playing The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” on the piano, his fingers skimming the keys effortlessly as his right foot pumps the pedal and his left foot keeps time.
“I love the freedom and looseness of the situation (at the King’s Club),” Lamb says. “There’s no pressure and you can be more relaxed to follow your muse.”
There are eight stools set up around the piano in the King’s Club, and Lamb often plays requests for patrons of the lounge, but when there are no requests, or when he is at home or in the studio with his wife, the muse takes over. With 11 albums between the two of them and an upcoming original of Theano’s called “Wild Green Yonder” poised for release later this month, Chuck and his wife are constantly feeding the creative fires.
“I just finished a solo piano album called ‘Lambinizations,'” says Lamb, who has been playing music for more than 25 years. “I sell copies of the album right off the piano at the gig (at the King’s Club), and it seems to be doing very well.”
While the muse is often impossible to ignore, it is hard to imagine when the Lambs can find the time for personal inspiration.
After a grooved-up version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Chuck talks about another of his ventures.
“I tour with Brubeck’s sons Chris and Dan about once every six weeks,” he says. “I joined (The Brubeck Brothers’ Quartet) two years ago and we are currently working on a new album.”
The Brubeck Brothers’ Quartet performs all over the country and they play an array of original tunes, but with a name like Brubeck, you can’t ignore the father.
“One time a little old lady came up after a show,” Lamb reminisces with an easy smile. “We had saved ‘Take Five’ for the encore – and she said, ‘You’re lucky. If you hadn’t played ‘Take Five,’ heads were gonna role.'”
The King’s Club’s westward-facing windows filter the apres sun which dances on the faces of people sitting at the bar and casts long shadows on the floor and on Lamb’s piano in the next room. Lamb is playing a soulful rendition of “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers as people look up from their conversations to admire Lamb’s version. Even the staff notices.
Lauren, a King’s Club waitress from Chicago, sighs. “Chuck’s great,” she says. “I love it when he plays this song.”
Annegret, the German bartender (“I am American,” she exclaims) who sports a dirndl, white hair and purple-tinted sunglasses, has been with the King’s Club since it opened over 15 years ago. She is more partial to the classics.
“Ahhh, that is more like it,” Annegret says, smiling, as Lamb breaks into George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
For the Lambs, music is about the music, not anything else.
“We could be selling out a little more,” says Lamb. “You know, so we could make the rent easier. But music for (Theano and me) – there are no compromises. We’re trying to remain true to the music, not what sells.”