Chico Hamilton

Gongs East!/Three Faces of Chico

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Collectables reissues two fine, late-'50s dates by drummer and bandleader Chico Hamilton. Gongs East and Three Faces of Chico both feature a solid, hard-swinging quintet with guitarist Dennis Budimer, bassist Wyatt Ruther, cellist Nathan Gershman and a young Eric Dolphy on flute, various reeds, and woodwinds. The earlier of the two platters, Gongs East, restricts Dolphy to flute and bass clarinet. As is Collectables' wont, they offer the latter of the albums first. Three Faces of Chico is also the stranger of the pair. Along with the hard-swinging and innovative quintet, there are four vocal tracks, three tracks of drum solos, and the quintet letting it rip on three more. It's an odd set, but one that is sequenced beautifully. Dolphy gets quite a few solos and his mature style is already in place here. The latter side, Gongs East is more adventurous both musically and texturally. Gershman shines here, as does Dolphy's flute work. The tunes all swing, especially "Beyond the Blue Horizon" and Gerald Wilson's pair, "Tuesday at Two" and "Where I Live," while the reading of "Passion Flower" here is among the most beautiful things Hamilton ever recorded. This is a fine two-fer that brings the welcome reissue of Three Faces of Chico to CD at long last.

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