Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chico Hamilton - Gongs East!

The best-known of all the 1950s Chico Hamilton Quintet sets, this is also the only early Hamilton music that has been fully reissued on CD. At the time, the drummer's group also included cellist Nate Gershman, guitarist Dennis Budimir, bassist Wyatt Ruther and the young Eric Dolphy on alto, bass clarinet and flute. Dolphy has quite a few short solos on this rewarding music, and the highlights of the date include "Beyond the Blue Horizon," "Passion Flower," Gerald Wilson's "Tuesday at Two" and the exotic "Gongs East." Recommended. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Former Gerry Mulligan Quartet drummer Chico Hamilton formed his own quintet in the mid-1950s and proceeded to record some of the best and most definitive music to emerge from the West Coast "cool" jazz school. He is probably better remembered today, however, for having introduced multi-reedsman Eric Dolphy to the world in the second incarnation of his band. GONGS EAST! was the first album released by that famed lineup, and it's a fine introduction to Hamilton, Dolphy and the subtler side of fifties jazz generally. At a time when the blues-based post-bop sound ruled the jazz roost, Hamilton was exploring Asian, chamber and avant-garde classical influences, with the ironic result that the leader/drummer is the least-featured player here. Instead, it is Dolphy - in a far more restrained and accessible form than his explosive later performances would lead one to expect - and cellist Nate Gershman who hold the spotlight for most of GE!, though the whole quintet does an outstanding job of realizing Hamilton's influential and historically quite underappreciated vision. All but one of the tunes are covers (and for some reason the track listing is completely jumbled), but the unique chemistry of this unit remakes everything with its own indelible stamp as slow, quiet grooves part like a soft fog, allowing the soloists to shine before closing again with a tinkle of chimes or the distant thunder of a Chinese gong. Now out of print, GONGS EAST! is well worth seeking out for anyone interested in fifties jazz and/or the duly celebrated musicians involved. For more from this combo, check out The Original Ellington Suite and Dolphy's Hot, Cool & Latin. Those were the days, indeed! - by Richard Luhrs, Amazon.com

Artist: Chico Hamilton
Album: Gongs East!
Year: 1958 (Discovery)
Label: Warner Bros. Japan (24 bit dig. remastered, 2014)
Runtime: 38:15

Tracks:
1.  Beyond The Blue Horizon (Leo Robin/Richard Whiting/Frank Harling) 3:01
2.  Where I Live (Gerald Wilson)  2:59
3.  Gongs East (Chico Hamilton) 5:06
4.  I Gave My Love A Cherry (Hale Smith) 4:04
5.  Good Grief, Dennis (Carlson Smith) 3:19
6.  Long Ago And Far Away (Ira Gershwin/Jerome Kern) 3:06
7.  Tuesday At Two (Gerald Wilson)  4:02
8.  Nature By Emerson (Fred Katz)  4:50
9.  Far East (Nat Pierce) 4:39
10.  Passion Flower (Billy Strayhorn) 3:05

Personnel:
Chico Hamilton (Drums, Gongs)
Eric Dolphy (Alto Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet)
Wyatt Ruther (Double Bass)
Nathan Gershman (Cello)
Dennis Budimir (Guitar)

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