How do you keep the title of “Living Jazz Legend,” after you pass? You release a record three months later and still blow people away.
Legendary drummer, Chico Hamilton, who passed away at the age of 92 on November 25th, released his 65th and final studio recording on February 25th. The new record, The Inquiring Mind, features his long-time band, Euphoria, who will be continuing to perform in his honor for the first half of 2014.
Chico Hamilton will always be remembered for his subtle and interesting instrumentation, the series of quintets he led from 1955-1965, and his ability to talent scout. His first band featured Jim Hall on guitar, Buddy Collette on reeds, Carson Smith on bass, and Fred Katz on cello. Charles Lloyd, Eric Dolphy, and Gabor Szabo were also later members of the quintet, which will always be championed for being one of the last great West Coast jazz groups. He helped put California on the jazz map in the 1950s.
The posthumous album is cool, groovin’ and relatively eclectic. The opening track, “Joy of Spring,” combines samba grooves, creating the exciting ramp up for the most beautiful season of life.
Perhaps the best track on the record, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” has a mellow, late-night feeling: a hip-shaking slink, and touch of sleaze. It’s mildly sexy; in the way classic jazz did a terrific job at in the past. Evan Schwam’s saxophone captures the essence of Chico Hamilton’s vision on this original composition.
“Tone Poem” is contemplative and sober, while “Money Wish,” is jaunty, enticing, and fun. “Cho = Chico Hamilton Organization” is solid 60’s West Coast, mid-tempo hardbop, creating a feeling of a mildly hot, Southern California day.
The Inquiring Mind is proof that a creative mind doesn’t fall away with age. The album takes the listener on a journey, oscillating from warm to cool, fast to slow, fusing in waltz, samba, bop, and blues. The album, Chico Hamilton’s last, is the product of a man who lived a jazz life to his fullest.