Chico Hamilton


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From the first outbreaks of Chico Hamilton's distinctive bossa groove and press-roll variations of same on the opening track "Evan's-Ville," you can tell that this veteran of the jazz wars shows virtually no signs of fatigue in his 85th year. Indeed, this compulsively listenable disc is but the second of four releases that the durable Hamilton put out in 2006 -- and like its brethren, this one has more than its share of surprises and delights. Of the four, it is on this album that Hamilton's signature drumming style -- never adequately given its due by historians -- comes most prominently into play, with its subtle yet pervasive washes of cymbals and Latin undercurrents that sweep the groove along. The majority of the tracks are compositions by Hamilton or members of his band -- the same basic lineup as on the other albums, plus perennial guest trombonist George Bohanon. The minor-chord vamp of "Christina," the tumbling bossa nova of "My Brother Bernie," and the Spanish modal "Arroyo" summon hypnotic trances not unlike those of the Hamilton groups of the '60s. Indeed, two players in particular, guitarist Cary DeNigris and flutist/tenor saxophonist Evan Schwam, often evoke the styles of their counterparts Gabor Szabo and Charles Lloyd in Hamilton's '60s bands. Yet at one point, as Hamilton strikes up another of his signature Latin-accented grooves and the horns play an ordinary sounding tune in unison, you look at the CD jacket and realize that they are doing a song by the Who, "The Kids Are Alright" -- completely transformed almost beyond recognition. There are more surprises ahead -- the delicate "Ballad for Mallets," where Hamilton plays entirely on the tom-toms, and a convincing, concluding venture into looping electronica, "Strut," utilizing a Joey Davis rhythm track cut five years before. On an earthier plane, Fontella Bass shouts the blues in a whiskey voice on "Love Me a Long Long Time" and saunters through "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" and a gospel waltz by Hamilton, "Believe In Him." Of the four Chico Hamilton albums of 2006, Believe is the pick of a very rich crop.

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