CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN-CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN.

CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN-CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN.

From an early age, Chico Hamilton looked destined to become a jazz drummer. Born in Los Angeles in September 1921, Chico was already a talented drummer by the time he reached high school. Away from school, he was playing alongside some of the greatest jazz musicians of his generation. Chico could hold is own alongside Charlie Mingus, Illinois Jacquet and Dexter Gordon. After high school, Chico was a member of Lionel Hampton’s band, where he played alongside fellow Los Angeles’ native Dexter Gordon. Not long after that, Chico made his recording debut, as Slim Gaillard’s drummer. During that period, where Chico was the resident drummer in Billy Berg’s nightclub. Unfortunately, just as Chico Hamilton’s career was taking off, he had to spend four years in the US Navy.

Between 1942 and 1946, Chico Hamilton has to spend four years in the US Navy. Like so many musicians, their careers were interrupted by the war years. These were four years they’d never get back. So when Chico came out the Navy, it was a case of making up for lost time.  That’s when Chico’s career began. Within a few years, Chico Hamilton went from sideman to bandleader at Pacific Jazz. That’s where he recorded the tracks that can be found on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn, which was recently released by Boplicity, a subsidiary of Ace Records. Before I tell you about Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn, I’ll tell you about Chico’s career.  

After leaving the Navy, Chico played alongside Count Basie and was a member of Lester Young’s studio band. Not long after that, Chico joined forces with Charlie Mingus and Dexter Gordon. They knew each other well and were a potent partnership. Soon, Chico was getting calls to work with some of the biggest names in music, including Wardell Grey, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. Then as the forties drew to a close, and a new decade dawned, music changed.

Miles Davis’ seminal classic Birth Of The Cool, which was released in 1949, proved a game-changer. It heralded the birth of West Coast Jazz. Featuring a band that included saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, Birth Of The Cool’s importance can’t be understated. The effect it had, sent shockwaves through music. By the early fifties, bebop was no longer King. Replacing it, was the West Coast Jazz. This would prove a crucial development in Chico’s career.

In 1952, saxophonist Gerry Mulligan hired Chico as a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. Featuring trumpeter Chet Baker, bassist Carson Smith, saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and Chico on drums. They recorded for two of the newly founded labels, Pacific Jazz and Fantasy. For the next few years, the Gerry Mulligan Quartet were one of the finest purveyors of West Coast Jazz. Chico’s performances were lauded. So it’s no surprise that Chico went from sideman to bandleader in 1955.

Chico Hamilton Quintet was released in 1955, on Pacific Jazz. It featured a rhythm section of Chico on drums, bassist Carson Smith and guitarist Jim. Fred Katz played cello and Buddy Collette clarinet, flute, trumpet and alto saxophone. Critical acclaim, plaudits and praise accompanied the release of Chico Hamilton Quintet. Later in 1955, Chico released another album. Billed as the Chico Hamilton Trio, their eponymous album was released on Pacific Jazz. With the Cool School at the peak of its popularity, Chico was riding the crest of a wave.

During 1956, Chico was just as busy. He was working as a sideman and released two albums. There was also another album from the Chico Hamilton Trio. Then the Chico Hamilton Quintet released their sophomore albums. The Chico Hamilton Quintet In Hi-Fi. By then, there had been changes in the lineup. 

Musicians like Paul Horn, Eric Dolphy and Howard Roberts all came and went. Despite the changes in lineup, the quality never suffered. Still, Chico was one of the golden boys of the Cool School. The eight tracks on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn were recorded during this period. When West Coast jazz was no longer the musical flavor of the month, Pacific Jazz sold a number of unreleased tracks to Modern Records. Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn was released in 1963, on Modern Records’ Crown Records imprint. That was still to come. Chico had one more year left at Pacific Jazz.

1957 saw Chico working just as hard. He accompanied Tony Bennett, Fred Katz, John Lewis and Corky Hale. The Chico Hamilton Quintet released their third album, Pacific Jazz Presents. It was released on Pacific Jazz, and would be the last album he’d release for West Coast. Between the release of Pacific Jazz Presents and Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn in 1963, Chico would drift from label to label.

During the next five years, the Chico Hamilton Quintet released albums on World Pacific, Warner Bros, Columbia and Impulse, where Chico recorded some of the finest music of his career. The Chico Hamilton Quintet made a brief return to Pacific Jazz, releasing The Spectacular in 1962. As for the Chico Hamilton Trio, they released one more album on World Pacific. Chico hadn’t lost his appetite for making music. Whether it was as a bandleader or sideman, Chico was still one of the hardest working musicians in jazz. In 1963, he was about to enter one of the most productive periods of his career at Impulse. The first was at Pacific Jazz, where he recorded the eight tracks that became Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn.

Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn features eight songs were recorded over several sessions. This includes a quartet of tracks penned by Fred Katz, Pluck It, Katz Up, Crazy Cats a.k.a. Classical Katz and Lord Randell. Bassist George Duviver wrote Porch Light and Autumn Landscape. Lolly Pop was written by Chico and Gerald Hamilton with Gerald Wiggins. These tracks became Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn.

Very little is known album the lineup that appeared on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn. Paul Horn only plays on the final four tracks. Bassist George Duviver is joined by either Jim Hall or Howard Robbins on guitar. They’re joined by Chico on drums. Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn is an enthralling insight into the music of Chico Hamilton, one of jazz’s finest drummers, which I’ll tell you about. 

Opening Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn is Porch Light. Chico’s drums and George Duviver’s bass drive the arrangement along. George leaves spaces, Chico fills them. Above them is a cinematic guitar solo. Shakers are ever-present adding an atmospheric sound. Soon, it’s time for the solos. Everyone gets the chance to showcase their skills. It’s George’s bass and the guitar that steal the show. If I’d to choose between the two, the mesmeric guitar solo comes out on top. If only we knew who they were?

Autumn Landscape has a pensive, wistful sound. The guitar is at the heart of the arrangement. It provides a melancholy sound, one whose beauty tugs at your heartstrings. Rolls of bold, dramatic drums from Chico open the track. Then when the guitar enters, it’s very different from the previous track. Played with power and aggression, experimental and free jazz shine through. Then it’s all change. The band veer between a more traditional and experimental sound. It’s as if Chico and his band are pushing musical boundaries. Dramatic, bold, melodic, avant-garde and thunderous, are ways to describe this track.

Lolly Pop bursts into life. The rhythm section join forces with the guitar. It’s played at breathtaking speed. Fluid and accurate, you’re enthralled by this mesmeric solo. Somehow, Chico manages to keep up. He plays with brushes, adding crashing cymbals and drum rolls as he adds drama and flamboyance, as he goes head to head with the guitar. Good as Chico’s playing is, he’s overshadowed by some of the best guitar playing on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn.

Paul Horn makes his debut on Pluck It. He plays clarinet, as the track unfolds in  short, sharp and urgent bursts. He joins the bass, which propels the arrangement along. The guitar playing is muted, almost subdued. Later, it’s more like the sound of earlier tracks. Chico meanwhile, is content to let other people take centre-stage. Here, it’s bassist George Duviver and Paul Horn. Their playing veers between urgent, abrupt and fluid on an enthralling track.

Katz Up is the quite different to anything that’s gone before. That’s down to the cello, which ensures the arrangement swings along. It has a scratchy lo-fi sound. Then there’s the clarinet that’s played fluidly. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat, aided and abetted by the guitar. Together they create a swinging track, that occasionally and briefly, heads in the direction of avant-garde and free jazz.

Crazy Cats a.k.a. Classical Katz is a fusion of jazz and classical music. Paul Horn produces his best performance on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn. He plays a soul-searching solo. Accompanied by a cello, which adds a classical influence, they prove a potent partnership. They force each other to greater heights. Inspiring each other, they play their part in what’s one of the album’s highlights.

Closing Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn is Lord Randall. Heartbreaking, emotive and dramatic describes this track. It has a cinematic quality. That’s down to the cello and flute. They play starring roles, painting pictures. You can imagine Lord Randell preparing to head off to fight in a war. The sombre tones supplied by the cello could well be some tragedy that’s befallen him. The guitar, it adds a melancholy quality, while the bass sounds like an army marching into battle. For over seven magical minutes, Chico and his band create what’s best described as an epic example of musical theatre.

Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn featured eight tracks Chico recorded for Pacific Jazz. Once West Coast jazz was no longer as popular, and the Cool School was out, Pacific Jazz sold a whole host of unreleased tracks to Modern Records. They were released on Modern Records’ Crown Records imprint in 1963. Sadly, Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn wasn’t a commercial success. By then jazz had moved on and Chico was now signed to Impulse, where he’d enjoy one of the most successful periods of his career. However, Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn is an important musical document.

Featuring music that’s variously dramatic, bold, challenging, melodic, melancholy and cinematic, Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn is full of subtleties and surprises. Sometimes, the music briefly heads in the direction of avant-garde,  bebop, experimental and free jazz and. Other times the Cool School is back in business. Then on the seven-minute cinematic opus Lord Randall classical music has influenced Chico. Quite simply, Lord Randall is the highlight of Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn. If you close your eyes, Chico and Paul paint pictures. Lord Randall becomes a story waiting to be told or a film to be made. Crazy Cats a.k.a. Classical Katz is another track where there’s a classical influence. It sees jazz and classical music unite seamlessly. These two tracks are just two reasons why Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn which was recently released by Boplicity, a subsidiary of Ace Records is well worth discovering.

Whether you’re a fan of Chico Hamilton, Paul Horn, West Coast jazz or just jazz music in general, then Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn will be a welcome addition to your record collection. Why? Well, Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn features some hidden gems from Pacific Jazz’s back-catalogue and features music from one of the most successful period in Chico Hamilton’s career. During his time at Pacific Jazz, Chico Hamilton had established a career as a pioneering musician who pushed musical boundaries. The eight tracks on Chico Hamilton With Paul Horn are proof of that. Standout Tracks: Porch Light, Autumn Landscape, Crazy Cats a.k.a. Classical Katz and Lord Randal.

CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN-CHICO HAMILTON WITH PAUL HORN.

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