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Friday, 9 March 2012

Drums as they should be

Tone Deaf is still a pop novice but one thing's for certain: most groups could ditch their drummer and adapt something mechanical. A kitchen blender, say, or a wind-up Barbie doll. Imaginative drumming is rare in the pop sector although I’ve been meaning to discover whether Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason has (had?) any legitimate skills.

I'm not exactly a drumming enthusiast but ten bars of Coldplay, et al., are enough to send me looking for some more stirring percussion. So how about Chico Hamilton, 91 years young, whose latest CD (Revelation) came out last year.

Of course it isn’t apples vs. apples. Pop/rock groups require something noisy, obvious and only vaguely rhythmic. Most of their practitioners could probably sell off half the drumkit and benefit from the increase in stage space. Whereas Chico, a specialist in jazz chamber music, is subtly insistent rather than an in-yer-face clatterer, a part of the music instead of in competition with it.

He’s best known for his quintet of which the other instruments (cello, bass, guitar, flute) hint at his quiet, laid-back style. In the 1958 movie Jazz on a Summer’s Day he’s seen wearing a suit doing something subtle to his tom-toms with hairy mallets. If you click HERE you’ll get the whole movie which is 81 min. long.

Here’s a shorter piece, THE WIND, dating back to about the same time but with an alto instead of a flute.

Chico’s work has reached a wider audience notably as background music to the movies Sweet Smell of Success, and Repulsion. He’s also played at the White House at an event hosted by George W. Bush. Hmmm

8 comments:

earlybird said...

I really enjoyed 'The Wind'. Soothing.

The drums are indeed subtle. I assume they're there because you say so.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

EB: A couple of early bars of bongo (obviously done with his little fingers), some virtually inaudible brushwork on the snare and finally - you need bat's ears for this - tiny trills on the triangle. This is truly self-abnegatory percussion in which CH cedes audible and continuing rhythm to the bass. Glad you mentioned it; his modesty is almost parodic. The passage in Jazz on a Summer's Day makes my point rather better but the trouble is tracking it down in the 81-minute full-length movie.

Plutarch said...

Drums probably relate to the beginning of music. I try to imagine our early ancestors experimenting with hollow logs or stretched skins, seeking to copy the rhythms of nature. Wind instruments must have come next ...
A long haul to Jazz on a Summer's Day, but one worth the while.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

I was finally able to put in some work on my concise sonnet yesterday and decided to start playing the 81 min. movie Jazz on a Summer's Day as both an accompaniment and to see if I could find at what point Chico Hamilton appears (not by 47 min. 28 sec. which is where I had to switch off). The movie was made in 1959 my personal annus mirabilis: the warm weather lasted until mid-October, I moved down to London which is what I'd always wanted to do, I met Mrs LdP, and years later, at a German vineyard, I sipped a hugely expensive Jahrhundertswein riesling dating back to that year. The movie resembled a list of the living dead since so many of those shiny young faces haven't made it to 2012. Wrestling with my verse I saw a black trumpet player on the screen and told myself "That's Art Farmer". As far as I know I have never seen Art Farmer play (hardly ever heard him either) and he has only been a name - and a very vague one - over the intervening fifty years. The announcer confirmed it was him and I wondered - as I know you do - about the processes of memory and their greatest prophet.

I don't think my three-volume Penguin version of Remembrance will stand up to yet another reading without the pages starting to detach. I hate that and - greedily - I rub my hands at the thought of being able to justify the purchase of the newer version. But what then will I do with the old?

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

Plutarch: The above comment was addressed to you.

mike M said...

I'm in the midst of reading your "jazz" segments...noticed the mention of "Jazz on a Summer's Day". The opening sequence with the water reflections giving way to the Jimmy Giuffre 3 has always been one of my favorites. A great film.

mike M said...

The Wind is a great cut....thanks for pointing me toward it....and there is Jim Hall (of the Giuffre 3) again on guitar

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: Said (in the piece about Coleman Hawkins - Signs His Cheques Mr Jazz) I saw JOASD on the year it came out, implying that was the only time, I find here I'm directing people to YouTube and to a complete version of the movie. It's my impression I didn't watch it all the way through on this occasion, just to the Chico bit. Thus I never checked whether AOD sang Tea For Two.

I should warn you my use of labels as a form of index is a bit eccentric. Apart from checking out Jazz as such, it may be worth also looking the names of individuals as well.