No matter what tradition a drummer harks from, if that drummer is good, there is no avoiding the uplifting nature of the music when the drummer leads in a precise direction. Chico Hamilton is just that drummer. One need only to read his liner notes for It's About Time! and his standard is set. His musical aim: to find the pocket and stick with it.
The members of the trio on this recording have collaborated over a period of twenty-five years: Pretty simplea guitarist, a Fender bassist, and drummer. The elegance that this trio cultivates in the thickness, steadiness and sheer momentum of this music is enough to convert any hard-line sophisticate to their belief that the uncomplicated solidity of a rhythmic sense can bear fruit that is gratifying and delicious.
The crux of this recording is to stay on course. Guitarist Cary DeNigris introduces us to their process with "Cary." Without his relaxed yet concise lead guitar strumming, and his ability to vibrate the melodies, the character of the album would not be set nor would Paul Ramsey on bass and Hamilton on drums be positioned to unroll their inexorable grooves. The ease and comfort of this instrumentation seems to organically transform the development of one track into the next, as if one were only a phase of another.
Hamilton alternates his instrumental applications, from engaging the full trap set ("Cary") to isolating the resonance with mallets ("Autumn in New York") to lightly tapping the snare with brushes ("What If" and "Nuttye (for Jimmy)," to honor the late Jimmy Cheatham) to a place where however he employs his muscle it never supersedes his tools ("Nod to Gabor," "Paul," "6/8 for CH"). In this way, Hamilton captures the mood-producing baseline and grasps his overriding intention. His instinct collides with realization.
DeNigris and Ramsey have fun with each other, exchanging riffs straightforwardly ("What If") and then becoming more serious but remaining lighthearted throughout their call-and-response interplay in the two-minute "Tone Poem in D." Their synchronicity, as it is reached in "Paul" or "Nod to Gabor," and complementarity, as fulfilled in "6/8 for CH," is never less than satisfying and rich. Neither of these electric guitar players misses a beat.
The trio is tight and clear and never fatigues. This album is about time, on many levels: Going back in time to pick up an original concept; a time to realize that if music is good once, it will be good twice; and a time to understand that music and heart can fit together like "two peas in a pod." Or, in this case, three.
Chico's voice in the last cut pulls the final string in sewing up the pocket, a pocket his trio makes into a full suit of clothes.
Personnel: Chico Hamilton: drums and vocals; Carey DeNigris: guitar; Paul Ramsey: Fender bass.