Monday, May 26, 2008

Hey, Chico!

Chico Hamilton is one of the two great 80+ warhorse drummers in the current jazz scene, the other being Roy Haynes. Hamilton, productive as always, has released two different albums under his own name, "Alternate Dimensions of El Chico" and "It's About Time;" the latter is an EP of dancehall remixes of Chico's music while the former is a new album from his trio, made with long-time band-mates Cary DeNigris (guitar) and Paul Ramsey (bass). The key difference between Hamilton and Haynes is the energy; Hamilton clearly cannot play the way he used to, while Haynes is not only capable, but willing to surround himself with big-name young players (Jaleel Shaw, Marcus Strickland) to keep his game up.

"Alternate Dimensions of El Chico," an album of Chico Hamilton remixes as done by DJs Soulfeast and Mark De Clive-Lowe, suffers from the same problematic inconsistency that just about any jazz remix album does; when it's good, it's good, but when it's bad, it's terrible. Take the two remixes of "Mysterious Maiden," for example. Both remixes (one of which is 12 minutes long, mind you) drag on for what seems like an eternity, and with nothing to show for it but repeating motifs. It's a shame that those two tracks are so bad, though, because almost everything else on the album is pretty good. "Je Ka Jo" and the album closer, "I'm Still Thirsty," both make you want to get out of your stuffy jazz critic chair and dance, while "El Toro" adds an interesting hook to the original tune. Who am I kidding? This album wasn't made for serious jazz listeners anyway, but for DJs in need of something fresh to spin.

I'm going to be brutally honest and say that Chico Hamilton's new trio album, "It's About Time," isn't stellar. It's unfocused and more than a little bit odd. But there are little glimmers of greatness about it; "What If," for example, features some great bass-guitar unison work, while "Nod to Gabor" (for Gabor Szabo, who got his start with Hamilton) has a ton of solo space for everybody. For a guitar trio album, however, there's something missing on most of the tracks; a good guitar trio should sound like more than three instruments (listen to just about anything Bill Frisell's done in the format), while for some reason here it sounds like there are less. For every track like "Nod to Gabor" or "6/8 For CH," which sounds like 60s Blue Note crossover jazz in the best way possible, there's a track like "Paul," which begins by searching for something that never materializes. I don't know that I can quite recommend either album, but I would say that a few of the tracks I mentioned from each are definitely worth a listen if you can find them.

Next time I think I'm going to have a review of Daniel Zamir's new "I Believe," which was released today. If not, you can probably expect a review of Pat Metheny's "Day Trip Tokyo" or Marcus Miller's "Marcus."

1 comment:

Waa? said...

I guess I'm not going to spend my $15 (I earned from baby sitting) on Chico Hamilton's horrible album, "It's about time." Thanks Jazz Monster!!

Any suggestion as to what jazz album I should buy this week?