Saturday, December 29, 2007

La mentira maldita

Here's a post from Jim C, who has a great story about a record he wants to share:

I just got an album (from a guy on Ebay from Argentina) that I've spent the last quarter century looking for. It's Chico Hamilton Quintet's contributions to the soundtrack from the 1957 movie The Sweet Smell Of Success, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. If you've ever seen the movie, you'll remember when Chico's group (well, everybody except the guitarist, for whom actor Martin Milner is substituted) is shown on screen playing some very cool jazz in a New York nightclub. I first saw this movie back in the early '80s (it's one of my all time favorites), and I immediately set out to find the soundtrack. Elmer Bernstein does the primary score, which is very brassy big band stuff and pretty terrific itself, but Hamilton's group is comprised of guitar, bass, drums, flute and cello (!), and that instrumentation has a hip, chamber jazz-like quality that steals the show. Most of the tunes are pretty short for post-bop jazz, and that, coupled with Hamilton's mighty drumming, should endear this record to rock-trained ears. In the twenty-five years I've spent searching for this, I've never seen a trace of it until locating this old vinyl LP from Argentina, released in '57 by Decca with Spanish liner notes. I have no idea what the notes say, except that the quintet consists of: Chico Hamilton - drums, Carson Smith - bass, John Pisano - guitar, Paul Horn - woodwinds and Fred Katz - cello. Most of the song titles are in Spanish too, which I'm pretty sure was a liberty Decca took to promote it in the Latin market. In English the titles are: "Goodbye Baby", "Cheek To Chico", "Susan", "Sidney's Theme", "Jonalah", "Jam", "Night Beat" and "Concierto Of Themes From 'The Sweet Smell Of Success'", the last of which takes up all of side two. The record's label gives compositional credit for all the tunes to Fred Katz and Chico Hamilton. There is a tight, flashy element to the group's sound that reminds me of those small groups Benny Goodman had with Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian and others back in the swing era, but the writing here has an overt intellectual quality that marks it as belonging to the late '50s. With the attention given to composition, mood consistency, pacing, etc., this comes across as one of the best jazz albums of that era, in the sense that it is more than just a loose blowing session.

Thanks Jim! This is a terrific LP.


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