Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Chico Hamilton at Borders Books & Music/Columbus Circle, NYC 4/30/09

The legendary percussionist made his way to the drum kit gingerly but once he got there he was all business. 87 years old and still absolutely vital. This wasn’t Elvin Jones in his last heartbreaking days. Since Chico Hamilton teaches at the New School, he’d brought a couple of proteges – one a reed man, the other on bongos – along with his regular guitarist Cary DeNigris and electric bassist Paul Ramsey. Incongruous, to say the least, to see the jazz legend under the soft lights of a bookstore, but the group played like it was the most normal thing in the world (props to the Borders folks for putting this on), running through a mix of classics, older material and songs from Hamilton’s new cd Twelve Tones of Love.

DeNigris didn’t wait to catch fire on their first number, How’s Your Feelins, slamming out a fiery series of big, expansive chords, Hamilton pushing things along on just a snare, switching to doubletime in a split-second with the whole band behind him. On the swing blues My Brother John, he proved he could still spin a stick and not miss a beat, again punching it when least expected and upping the ante in no time at all. The Lester Young tune Broadway, a favorite from Hamilton’s younger days was a clinic in dynamics, up and down again with bluesy solos from DeNigris and the sax player.

What sounded like Mose Allison’s Fools Paradise was vastly darker than the original, Hamilton building an eerie cymbal wash as DeNigris channeled Django Reinhardt, then took a long, incisive, chordal solo out (he was all about big sound that night). From time to time, Hamilton would ham it up – he mimed taking a drag of a smoke and then missing the beat – and on a couple of occasions cut out completely, making sure everybody was paying attention. And they were: after over an hour, Hamilton announced that it was time to go to the bar (coffee bar?) and that he was glad it wasn’t far. Standard stage patter, but there was nothing commonplace about the show. See him if you can, he still brings it.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Chico Hamilton – Twelve Tones of Love

This album is all about joie de vivre. At 87, Chico Hamilton is happily ensconsed in the jazz pantheon – the percussionist decades ago passsed the point where he had anything left to prove. Yet here he is again, having fun. While this might sound like your typical Sunday afternoon jazz at a distance, or at low volume – and it’s a marvelous choice for a Sunday afternoon – it’s a lot more than that. It’s best experienced on headphones. Hamilton’s stock in trade has always been subtlety and nuance, rare qualities for a percussionist, and as usual he’s not here to jolt anyone out of their socks. But this album is anything but saturnine: it resonates with a confident, gentle warmth.


Most of the cuts here aren’t long, clocking in at under four minutes at a clip. Some of them are sketches. Many of them are confidently swaying, slow-to-midtempo swing blues. The rhythm is carried as much here by Paul Ramsey’s Fender Bass as it is by anything else, cutting through the mix with the trebly, slightly oscillating tone common to electric jazz bass around forty years ago. Cary DeNigris plays guitar, giving an absolutely marvelous, spot-on Ernie Ranglin-style chordal feel to the casual hangout number Steinway, anchoring the brief and beautifully lyrical Americana number On the Trail and gently keeping things on the rails while guest George Bohanon’s trombone signifies jauntily on George, a gift of appreciation from Hamilton. The percussionist himself takes a typically understated star turn on several occasions, riding the cymbals with an altered clave beat on the Wes Montgomery-ish Penthouse, spicing the mallets-and-vocals-only Lazy Afternoon and pointedly punctuating the early 70s style latin shuffle Raoul. If this album intrigues you, you can enter to win a free copy courtesy of Giant Step (contest expires May 15, 2009). New York listeners also have a golden opportunity to see him live for free on Wednesday, April 30 at 7 PM (early arrival obviously advised) at Borders Books & Music in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle on the second floor.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment