How do you make chamber jazz? Chico Hamilton did it utilizing a guitarist, a cellist, a bassist, a reedman, and of course a drummer. Lone Hill Jazz has reissued the complete studio recordings of this unusual yet intriguing quintet, augmented by two additional tracks from the same era, one by the string trio from the above quintet and one by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chico Hamilton on drums. We should congratulate Lone Hill for releasing such valuable music in an attractive package yet again. The remastering of the sound is very good, but the bass is a bit hard to hear on the first six tracks. This, however, does not diminish the quality of the music or the enjoyment one gets from it.
The music is more conventional than the lineup suggests. The cello acts as a frontline instrument together with the reeds; the guitar leads the rhythm section on some of the tracks and joins the frontline on the others. Imagine 19th Century European Romantic music infused with a strong dose of the blues and you can get a pretty good idea about this music. Of course no description can replace actually hearing it.
Needless to say, all of the musicians excel on their respective instruments, and it's a joy to hear them solo. Chico Hamilton plays the drums in his unique manner, coaxing melodies and complex rhythms out of them. The drum solo on the last track with the Gerry Mulligan quartet is mellifluous and extremely infectious.
The music on this disc has the relaxed feeling of a Saturday night at home, but that does not mean it is boring. It is varied and exciting and holds one's interest from the first track to the last. These recordings have not changed the course of modern music like Kind Of Blue or A Love Supreme, but they are still fresh fifty years later and further testament to the universality of jazz as a music and as an art form.
Personnel: Chico Hamilton: drums; Buddy Collette: reeds; Jim Hall: guitar; Fred Katz: cello; Carson Smith: bass; Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone; Jon Eardley: trumpet; Red Mitchell: bass.