Chico Hamilton: Believe, 6th Avenue Romp & Heritage
Chico Hamilton has had an extraordinary career - he's played with many of the jazz greats, led influential groups, introduced talented musicians, written for film and for commercials and more. The discs reviewed here are all part of a joint 2006 release designated to celebrate his 85th birthday year.
Believe's music is from a lot of places but it's unified by a sound that utilizes the styles and strengths of his group. Basically the man understands 'the groove' and places it in every tune. The opening track "Evan's-ville is a clever bossa/funk blend that showcases tenor saxophonist Evan Schwam, now a Hamilton veteran. (The title not only plays on his name but also on Evansville, Indiana, hometown of Chico's manager, Jeffrey Caddick.)
Chico also looks up musicians who have meant something to him and puts them back to work. Trombonist George Bohanon adds - pardon - a funky bottom to many of the tunes. On the blues "Love Me A Long, Long Time ; on Chico's tributes to his brothers "My Brother Don , a sinewy yet simple theme and "My Brother Bernie , a ballad feature that turns Latinish; and even on a powerful version of The Who's "The Kids are Alright , Bohanon adds color plus an individual sound. And speaking of individual sound, listen to Fontella Bass' powerful vocal on a tune written by Melba Liston and on the old classic shouter "Baby Won't You Please Come Home . The album closes with a track that will either knock you out or drive you crazy (if you're a purist, that is) - a heavily mixed groove modern jam tune, "Strut .
6th Avenue Romp is even more of a dance record, but in the very best sense. This set finds the band digging deep into soul classics like "You've Really Got A Hold on Me , "Ain't No Sunshine and Stevie Wonder's beautiful "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever) . On a shuffling boogie version of Duke's "'A' Train , the conductors of the express are the muted trumpet of Jon Faddis and the relaxed yet passionate vocals of the leader himself.
Mention must be made here of Chico's bandmates. Guitarist Cary DeNigris is a longtime member having followed other great plectrists in Chico's history - Larry Coryell, Joe Beck, Gabor Szabo. Bassist Paul Ramsay proudly plays electric and provides solid support - more of that funky bottom - and smart, musical chops. Relative newcomers Andrew Hadro and Geoffrey Countryman complement the band sound with strong riffing and playfully unique colors. Bohanon is back for a track and on the same tune one-time prodigy Shuggie Otis (son of R&B legend Johnny Otis) plays a dirty blues guitar. The surprise bonus at the end is a 'dub' mix of a duet between Chico and an accordion!
On Heritage, the sensuous baritone sound of Gerry Mulligan is celebrated on "Mulligan Stew with Andrew Hadro taking the baritone chores and blending with the ubiquitous Bohanon. "Viva Tirado celebrates Chico's passion for Latin music and his long friendship with Gerald Wilson, whose band had a hit with this tune. (Wilson is also honored in "Yard Dog Mazurka which was an early Jimmie Lunceford hit that Wilson arranged in the '40s.) There's a darker arranged tune "One for Hale for "serious Hale Smith; a showcase for DeNigris on "One for Gabor ; and tunes written for Lennie Hayton (arranger for Chico's former boss Lena Horne) and Arnie Lawrence, the late saxophonist who played in Chico's band in the Impulse days and whose daughter sings two standards here. Another important influence on Chico was 'Sweepea' - Billy Strayhorn. Chico recalls him as a smart and sensitive artist and human and these qualities are reflected in Chico's vocal on Strayhorn's "Something to Live For . The diversity of tunes here is a true heritage of its leader.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Evan's-Ville; Love Me a Long, Long Time; My Brother Don; Christina; Bones, No Meat; Alive; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; My Brother Bernie; Arroyo; Andrewmatic; Kids Are Alright; Believe in Him; Ballad for Mallets; Strut.
Personnel: Fontella Bass: vocals; George Bohanon: trombone; Jeremy Carlstedt: percussion; Cary DeNigris: guitar; Chico Hamilton: drums; Evan Schwam: flute, soprano and tenor sax.
6th Avenue Romp
Tracks: Cleo's Mood; You've Really Got a Hold on Me; Topsy; Ain't No Sunshine; Elevation; Take the a Train; Chicken Pox; Strollin' with Bone; Thunderwalk; I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever); Gotta Make Things Right; Cleo's Back; Ain't No Sunshine (Reprise); I'm Still Thirsty.
Personnel: George Bohanon: trombone; Rob Burger: accordion; Jeremy Carlstedt: percussion, drums; Cary DeNigris: guitar; Ann Dyer: vocals; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Jon Faddis: trumpet; Chico Hamilton: drums; Shuggie Otis: guitar; Evan Schwam: flute, alto and tenor sax.
Tracks: First Track; Second Track.
Personnel: Player Name: instrument; Player Name: instrument.