The first of two Chico Freeman recordings for the soon-defunct Black-Hawk label finds the leader switching between tenor, alto, sopranino, soprano, bass clarinet, bass flute and C flute. John Purcell "only" limits himself to five reeds (alto, baritone, oboe, alto flute and piccolo), and the horns are joined by either Kenny Kirkland or Mark Thompson on piano, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Elvin Jones. The many combinations of reeds highlight this set, which has originals by Freeman, Mark Thompson ("Monk 2000"), John Stubblefield, Alex North and Cecil McBee ("Blues on the Bottom"), in addition to the standard "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise." The style ranges from straight-ahead to more exploratory sounds, and this colorful album is worth searching for.
Features 24 bit remastering and comes with a mini-description. A fine showcase for Chico Hamilton as a triple-threat artist: drummer extraordinaire ("Miss Movement," "Trinkets," etc.), vocalist ("She's Funny That Way," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "Where or When"), and, of course, leader. His vocals are reminiscent of Nat King Cole, with subtleties all his own, and his drumming is just as impressive amid its own set of superlatives, many of which are shown off on the Hamilton originals "Happy Little Dance" and "Trinkets."
Drummer Chico Hamilton introduced many top young players during his years as a bandleader, but few probably realize that Larry Coryell made his recording debut with Chico a year before joining Gary Burton's quartet. The Dealer marks Coryell's initial appearance on record, and at times he sounded oddly like Chuck Berry (especially on "The Dealer"). Also heard on this set are altoist Arnie Lawrence, bassist Richard Davis, organist Ernie Hayes (on two numbers), and, on his spirited boogaloo "For Mods Only," Archie Shepp making a rare appearance on piano. Most of the performances still sound surprisingly fresh, especially the explorative "A Trip," making this an underrated but worthy release.
The original Chico Hamilton Quintet was one of the last significant West Coast jazz bands of the cool era. Consisting of Buddy Collette on reeds (flute, clarinet, alto, and tenor), guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and the drummer/leader, the most distinctive element in the group's identity was cellist Fred Katz. The band could play quite softly, blending together elements of bop and classical music into their popular sound and occupying their own niche. This six-CD, limited-edition box set from 1997 starts off with a Hamilton drum solo from a 1954 performance with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet; it contains three full albums and many previously unreleased numbers) by the original Chico Hamilton band and also has quite a few titles from the second Hamilton group (which has Paul Horn and John Pisano in the places of Collette and Hall).