Although it came out in 1966, Chico Hamilton's The Dealer (Impulse! Records) still sounds as fresh as Long Beach mist. Leading a quartet that introduced the late guitar virtuoso Larry Coryell and which placed saxophone master Archie Shepp on piano, drummer Hamilton made a record that both showcased his fellow jazz princes and radiated his signature charm. He also crafted an as-yet-unheralded, unexpectedly resonant work of art.
Hamilton, who played in high school with Charles Mingus and would have reached a century in 2021, is associated with West Coast jazz and his twenty-sixth LP as a leader emanates Los Angeles cool. Starting with the warm, horn-swirled title track and continuing with Coryell's zipping guitar lines on "For Mods Only," the record could almost accompany some contemporary Philip Marlowe as he passes the gleaming windows of Rodeo Drive.
As standout songs such as the drum-shimmied "A Trip" and the sizzling "Larry of Arabia" prove, The Dealerwhich also features Arnie Lawrence on alto saxophone and Richard Davis on bassbrims with priceless warmth. Like William Parker's Mayan Space Station (AUM) from summer 2021 or Isaiah Collier's Return of the Black Emperor (Good Vibes Only) from 2019, Hamilton's album has a near volcanic energy and, like the most enduring jazz records, takes the form to magnificent heights. The fact that it was produced by the revered Bob Thiele and was recorded at the legendary Van Gelder Studio only makes it better.
When the album was released, America still endured the horrors of the Vietnam War, muck-faced soldiers sprinting for safety amidst all the gunfire. It's nice to imagine, however, in a faraway dream that the bossa nova-tinged "Jim-Jeannie" played from transistor radios and delighted those brave men. Today The Dealer, in all its sonic splendor, remains.
The Dealer; For Mods Only; A Trip; Baby You Know; Larry Of Arabia; Thoughts; Jim-Jeannie.
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