Monday, May 22, 2006

Chico Hamilton - El Chico (Impulse, 1966)

This album hasn't been released on CD yet, which is appropriate in a way - you really need the LP to appreciate the cover photograph of Chico in that cape, looking like some kind of villain from a superhero comic book. Damn, Impulse made some cool covers... that's one thing that will be missed as we transition from the analog to the digital, all those great album covers. But I digress, because the music here is quite good as well, and definitely deserves a second life as a compact disc. Freeman states in the liner notes that he took his time approaching Latin jazz, not wanting to rush to cash in an a fad. His patience pays off handsomely on this record, as he mixes modern jazz with Latin rhythms and popular songs to make some fine music.

His guitarist, Gabor Szabo, who would go on to his own string of successful Impulse releases is a real star on this album, rescuing the terribly maudlin song "People" and making it into a haunting ballad. Other tracks of note on this album are "Conquistadores" which adds hand percussion to Hamilton's drums building a mass of Latin rhythms for Szabo to take another excellent solo over. Hamilton gets some solo space to himself on "El Moors" and builds a rumbling controlled statement. There's some fine music to be heard here, so hopefully Impulse or whomever their corporate masters are now can see their way clear to stop issuing quickie compilation discs, and put out interesting back catalog albums like this (through iTunes if nothing else) to allow people to hear the interesting music within.

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