In thinking about what the world needs more of now, one specific word kept resurfacing for Jimmy Chamberlin. Fueled by social media feeds, fear-induced headlines, and all the mostly dishonorable jargon permeating outside facets, the Smashing Pumpkins drummer wrapped the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s third release around what seems like a unimaginable concept these days: Honor.
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Diving into the deeper end of life as it is now, Honor (Make Records), out Sept. 25, documents a moment in time as the Complex navigate four basic principles rooted in the title’s sentiment: integrity, humility, service, and grace. “I want people to come to their own conclusions,” says Chamberlin, who adds that he was thinking of his two teenage children, the challenges they face, and the message he wants to leave with them when making the EP. “If the album’s title is an impetus for self-reflection, then that’s cool too.”
A follow up to 2017’s The Parable, Honor finds the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex lineup returning to its core trio of Chamberlin, producer and bassist Billy Mohler, and guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme. Returning from the band’s 2005 debut Life Begins Again is keyboardist Adam Benjamin, along with tenor saxophonist Ben Wendell and trumpeter Shane Endsley—his bandmates in Kneebody—and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, who has worked with Chamberlin on the Chicago jazz scene.
Honor is a musical movement tapping into the four corners of integrity, humility, service and grace. Thinking outside those boundaries, Honor is a fully orchestrated resurrection for a better world fused by the Complex’s improvisational jazz, alt rock, and other experimental diversions. Opening on “Integrity” and moving through the urgency of “Grace,” Honor also leaves off on a fifth component of “Commitment,” an energetic jam bringing everything into alignment.
The goal of the recording, a genre-bending effect of the trio’s diverse backgrounds, was to document an afternoon spent with friends, says Chamberlin. “The genre swapping is just a natural occurrence,” says Chamberlain. “We all live in slightly different musical environments, and those influences and nuances become a part of the music.”
He adds, “We don’t talk about genres. Generally anything that is appealing is acceptable and merits further investigation regardless of where it lives. It makes it much more interesting to create in those widened parameters and makes many more things available.”
Wholly embodied by its musicianship with Chamberlin, Mohler, and Woolstenhulme coming from different roots, the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex effortlessly lock into infectiously melodic arrangements together throughout Honor. “The same way you honor yourself, you have to honor your instrument,” shares Chamberlin. “My relationship with the drums is the oldest relationship I have outside of my family.”
Playing drums since he was 8, Chamberlain connected with jazz early on, devouring Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis’ electric bands, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. “That music is in my DNA,” says Chamberlin, reflecting on the contrast of his roots and the music he’s made with The Smashing Pumpkins since 1988. “They were listening to Love and Rockets and Joy Division, and I was listening to Tommy Bolin… As a drummer, you can constantly go back to that music and continue to learn.”
Chamberlin, who is currently in the studio working on new music with The Smashing Pumpkins, says the Complex is just a real-time document of people playing music together.
“It’s extremely humbling and inspiring to work with such incredible, dedicated individuals—modern greats all of them and willing to give so much to the music,” he says. “During the sessions, there was very little talking going on, just a lot of love, respect and music.”