Chico Hamilton

The Head Hunters

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Chico Hamilton, having led one of the most significant bands of the West Coast cool jazz era in the '50s and having headed a mid-'60s group that featured Charles Lloyd and Gabor Szabo, was in a state of transition at the time of this 1969 album. This intriguing if erratic set features up-and-comers in altoist Steve Potts (who would later be a longtime member of Steve Lacy's group) and guitarist Eric Gale, along with the obscure tenor-saxophonist Russ Andrews, but this particular band would not last long. Most unusual is that Ray Nance, formerly with Duke Ellington for 20 years, is heard exclusively on violin and he sounds quite at home on the more adventurous pieces. Highlights include Eric Gale featured on the blues "Guitar Willie" (which has a fast bossa nova rhythm), Nance and Potts battling it out on "Reach and Grab It" and the group's spirit on "Them's Good Ole Days." However, a few throwaway numbers (particularly "I Found It" and "Ol' Man") lower this set's value. Head Hunters (named a few years before Herbie Hancock formed his group of the same name) is not essential, but it is a missing link in the long career of Chico Hamilton.

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