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Twelve Tones Of Love by Chico Hamilton

Jazz legend Chico Hamilton, drummer, composer, leader, educator, producer and all around cultural treasure for America’s music, has a new record,Twelve Tones Of Love. No surprise that he is still going strong at 87. Playing in his minimalist style, a style that is as fresh and vibrant as his first recording a half a century earlier finds Master Hamilton laying down musical fills, swinging rhythms, writing original tunes in multi layered melodical fashion - while painting musical portraits for eighteen wonderful tracks. This time out, as in past recordings Chico has surrounded himself with great players, some of his past students, some of his friends from past bands and a line up that gives heart and soul for Twelve Tones Of Love.

Chico Hamilton has performed with just about everybody in jazz, making his recording debut with Slim Gaillard in 1941 and progressing through the ranks of jazz greats too numerous to mention. In that same year he played for a short time with the Ellington Orchestra. He would come back to Ellington’s music many times, The Ellington Suite (1959 World Pacific). Not to be confused with The Original Ellington Suite released by Blue Note Records in 2000 and featuring Eric Dolphy. This band was one of his greatest quintets and Dolphy one of his greatest discoveries.

Maestro Hamilton is most notable for his west coast quintets that started in 1955 and went on to 1965. The music on Twelve Tones Of Love is in a similar groove to that period of time. The inclusion of some young lions gives the project a fresh face. The band takes its cue from Chico, it’s all about melody.

"Lazy Afternoon" composed by John LaTouche and Jerome Morose features Chico Hamilton on mallets in duet with one of his former students, vocalist Jose James. A most touching performance, full and soulful - a great sound and feel for the song by percussionist and vocalist alike.

The co-composition by Chico Hamilton and Jack Kelso "A Piece Of Music" weaves an intricate and spell binding group of sounds into an image laden pictorial. Horns in harmony wail, while cymbal waves crash upon a beach. A soft and melodic guitar sings of times gone by with riffs that sway and flash brilliant colours.

The following track "Happiness Prevails" by E. Schwam, pulls you from a meditative state with a fluid running hi-hat roll that bridges to a funk bass line and features smooth, bopish saxophone runs. The song shifts meters and gradually fades to silence. The original tune "George" keeps things swinging as trombonist George Bohannon puts it all out there. Possibly in thanks for naming a song after him.

"Really Makes My Day" is a touching tribute to Chico Hamilton’s’ wife Helen who passed in 2008. The song is short at just over a minute. It features the spoken voice of Chico in a poem like recitation of a loving memory. The music floats as if on a cloud - a saxophone and a guitar lament loves lost.

The "Alto Of Kelso" is another excellent original composition dedicated to the guest altoist Jack Kelso who also performs on the track. The highlights of this song are the fine guitar playing of Carey DeNegris as well as a masterful duet that finds Hamilton and Kelso communicating in their beautiful common language of music. And so closes Twelve Tones Of Love on an upbeat ride cymbal crash. Bravo maestro, play on.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chico Hamilton
  • CD Title: Twelve Tones Of Love
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Joyous Shout
  • Tracks: A Piece Of Music, Happiness Prevails, George, Nonchalant, Lazy Afternoon, Charlie Parker Suite, Penthouse A, On The Trail, Broadway, If You Can’t Beat ‘em Fight ‘em, Really Makes My Day, First Light, Raoul, Steinway, I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do), Lonely Women, Brother Bob, The Alto Of Kelso
  • Musicians: Chico Hamilton (drums, vocals), Carey DeNegris (guitar), Paul Ramsey (bass), Ivan Schwam (flute, soprano, tenor saxophone), Eddie Barbash (flute, soprano, alto saxophone), Jack Kelso, Ian Young (alto saxophone), Johnny Carlstedt (percussion), George Bohanon (trombone), Jose James (vocals)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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