In some ways a throwback to his bands of the early to mid-50s, the guitar-bass-drums format is not foreign to Chico Hamilton, but his old band sounded tame compared to this. Released in 2008 when Hamilton turned 87 years of age, the 1994 Art Park Festival concert at Lewiston, N.Y. was done when the drummer was a resurgent bandleader of 73. The band was electrically charged due to guitarist Cary DeNigris and a young bass guitarist emerging on the scene, Matthew Garrison, the son of the late bassist for John Coltrane's bands Jimmy Garrison. Though Hamilton was using a saxophonist at the time (Eric Person) he is out on this date, and the trio stands alone. The loud, steely guitar of DeNigris is up front and in your face throughout, starting with the retro-fusion tune "Ain't Nobody Calling Me," accented by the pounding stick and brush work of Hamilton and Garrison's funky fingerpopping bass. A ringing guitar informs the loose swinging but hard edged "A Little After Twelve," while the free flowing "Sculpture" displays how snippets falling together can congeal in a discourse, where acute listening skills held together with wit and synapses are more prevalent than charted arrangements. Hamilton employs vocal scat on the lightning fast version of Lester Young's "Tickle Toe," while "C & C" is based on a two-note riff borrowed from "Salt Peanuts," both tunes reflecting a love of Cab Calloway, Babs Gonzales, and Dizzy Gillespie. The quick "First Light" (not Freddie Hubbard's) is a workout for Garrison, and the funky blues shuffle "These Are the Dues" with wah-wah inflections is simply a fun jam. Reflecting his longtime love for Latin music, the stripped down melody of "Denise" is an expertly played bossa nova, something he has always included. Of the many recordings Hamilton has issued in the decade of the 2000s, this is one previously left on a dusty basement shelf that Hamilton felt compelled to issue. While long removed from his initial trio recordings of the '50s on Pacific Jazz, it is a telling reminder not only of how far Hamilton's music has advanced into modern times, but also how he has not at all forgotten his roots.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos