JJ 09/63: The New Amazing Chico Hamilton Quintet – Passin’ Thru

Sixty years ago, Gerald Lascelles liked the sitar allusions in Hamilton's unusual if not always pleasing music. First published in Jazz Journal September 1963

857

This music creates an unusual sound, if not always a pleasing one. The quintet seems to have taken a new lease of life since tenor man Charles Lloyd took over the musical directorship in 1961. Some of the elements of the “Free form” idea emerge in these tracks, although the sub­stance of each is a carefully prepared and conceived arrangement.

For a drummer-leader album it must be unusual in not featuring a single solo, although his presence is ever-felt as he confidently sets the pattern and beat for each number. Chico’s addiction to the Latin American idiom is most pronounced in “Passin’ Thru” and “El Toro”, although he could not be said to dominate the proceedings. Al Stinson’s bass proves to be a tower of strength throughout, and reveals a feeling for the group which is seldom heard today.

I enjoyed Bohanon’s trombone on “Second Time”, invoking shades of Bill Harris more than the pyrotechnics of Johnson. Lloyd makes his big showing in “Lonesome Child”, but should not be ignored in his other two originals, the blues “Transfusion”, and the opening track. In “Lady Gabor” his flute work leans towards the oriental woodwind technique, and several passages deliberately use the quarter tone, whilst other parts appear to involve both flute and guitar in similar excursions.

I would feel far happier if the acoustic guitar was used in place of the electric instrument in this context, coming so much closer to the exciting “sitar” music I have heard played by Indians. Whether this is a genuine new “inclusion” in the field of jazz, or just another gimmick, remains to be seen, but after the close fusions which we have heard with Latin-American music, there seems to be no valid reason why those who have the ability to interpret and incorporate Indian tones should not do so. I shall watch Chico Hamilton’s future activities with renewed interest.

Discography
Passin’ Thru; The Second Time Around; El Toro; Transfusion (19 min)—Lady Gabor; Lonesome Child (19 min)
Charles Lloyd (ten/f); George Bohanon (tbn); Chico Hamilton (d); Gabor Szabo (g); Al Stinson (bs).
(HMV CLPI652 12inLP 32s.)