Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet Complete Studio Recordings 2006

Recorded in 1955 and 1956, this CD is a splendid introduction to a famous group featuring an unusual line-up of drums, guitar, clarinet, cello and bass, once referred to as the last important group in West Coast jazz.

This music is perhaps best described as "chamber jazz", and it is mostly quite mellow. The interplay of cello, guitar and clarinet reminds the listener of classical chamber music, but the jazz sounds and structures dominate. The instrumentation keeps the sounds relaxed even on the upbeat songs.

A delicate and lovely version of My Funny Valentine is breathtaking. The Morning After is an oddly perky little number given the title. Chrissie is mellow enough to please smooth jazz listeners yet the intricate interplay amongst the group is pure jazz bliss. Gone Lover swings like crazy, and still you can relax.

Jim Hall plays guitar, and Mr. Hall is renowned in jazz as a great player. So is Buddy Collette, the clarinet, flute, and sax player extraordinaire. Carson Smith on bass and especially Fred Katz on cello are outstanding. The cello turns out to be a perfect, if not often thought of, jazz instrument. And Chico's drumming is subtly killer. Not a flashy guy, it is all in the service of the song.

I'd never heard anything quite like this, and although that isn't always a good thing, it is here. Laid back jazz that is full of ideas and swing. Great Sunday morning music. Or late night. Or right now.

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