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Chico Hamilton: 6th Avenue Romp

In early 2006, drummer and composer Chico Hamilton dropped two marvelous albums, Juniflip and Believe. Both were brilliant offerings. Now, two more great albums, 6th Avenue Romp and Heritage, have hit. The 85-year-old legend is on a massive roll.

6th Avenue Romp features the kinds of songs that Hamilton played back in postwar Los Angeles. They are simple, familiar tunes, including Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Ellington and Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and a truly gorgeous version of “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” sung mightily by Brenna Bavis. But they are full of possibilities, and Hamilton arranges them all with great verve, upping the blues-and his band, Euphoria, takes it from there.

Heritage is a mixture of standards, original songs and reflective moments. Hamilton pays homage to people who helped shape his life and career, including his longtime friend, arranger Gerald Wilson. “Mulligan’s Stew” is an ode to the late baritone saxophone player Gerry Mulligan, whom Hamilton played with for many years, but the cream of Heritage is a piping-hot version of the standard “Love Me or Leave Me” featuring singer Marya Lawrence.

Originally Published