Chico Hamilton Quintet Plays The Sound Track From “Litho” (1962)
Chico Hamilton Quintet
[no titles listed]
Charles Lloyd – tenor sax, flute
George Bohannon – trombone
Gabor Szabo [as “Gabby”] – guitar
Albert Stinson – bass
Chico Hamilton – drums, composer
Recorded late 1961, probably New York City
Issued on LP in 1962 by Amalgamated Lithographers of America Local 1, New York, U. S. A
LITHO is a 14-minute industrial film produced by the Amalgamated Lithographers of America, which prominently serves to debut one of the most progressive and creative units in contemporary jazz of the early 60s.
The film begins by illustrating early types of lithography, the stone and the press. Then, using examples of Lautrec’s posters, the 16-mm color film progresses to the actual steps in mass color production.
The music is performed as a continuous suite of themes, seamlessly woven together by its leader’s witty use of percussion techniques to change ambiance and mood. A solitary trombone enters as a sort of sounding call and, in overdubbed counterpoint, seems to simply suggest a “looking back” through history.
A flute is slowly introduced to add to the counterpoint, then dramatically shifts it into a rollicking guitar/bass/percussion motif. This provides the foothold for a fluent clarinet solo with a gentle guitar comping behind it — suggesting the spirit of many late 50s West Coast records.
One must wonder sometimes if the group noted above is not joined by others on the date: Lloyd is not known for recording on clarinet and the guitarist here sounds nothing like Gabor Szabo. A brief crash of sound is heard, subtly implying the prominence of Ornette Coleman’s historic quartet, whereupon the drummer lays out his patented mallets-rolling-along-the-toms (as he would do again in “A Rose For Booker”).
The metallic jangle of Szabo’s chordal foundation is accompanied by Stinson’s bowed bass, running along the higher notes to almost suggest a wailing violin. Lloyd’s very distinctive flute again enters while a walking rhythm is established by Hamilton with brushes on a snare.
Here, the rhythm section, which would strike the attention of listeners on Drumfusion and Passin’ Thru, is heard to beautiful effect, employing in a most conservative way the harmelodic treatment Coleman’s group was just then establishing.
Another crash is prompted by the reed player, who is heard on alto (sounding very much like Ornette Coleman) and launches the guitarist into a brief, melodic solo. The drummer again shifts moods through his own all-out solo, leading the quintet into an early rendition of “El Toro,” a haunting theme similar to Coltrane’s “Olé.” Lloyd solos here on flute.
The rhythm propelling “A Rose For Booker” rapidly fades in and sends the guitarist into experimental solo mixing single-lines with chordal follies. The drummer then sets a minor-chord bop structure while the guitar plays chordal assaults (which he would do again in Repulsion), while Lloyd’s sax careens wildly over top (very unusual, one must guess, for an industrial documentary film) until it is very suddenly brought to a halt.
Litho contains excellent music which reveals much about the origins of Hamilton and Lloyd’s conception. Here, one clearly hears more of Ornette Coleman’s influence (a prominent resource for Gabor Szabo during this period) than John Coltrane’s (obviously Charles Lloyd’s model at this time).
But Litho makes it very apparent that this group had an early affinity for one another’s creativity and, more significantly, these were five individuals who were positively intrepid when it came to exploring the varied directions each wanted to pursue.
Chico Hamilton manager and producer Jeffrey Andrew Caddick told me that Litho is also significant as the first American film to be shown behind the Iron Curtain. The extremely rare Hamilton soundtrack album (pictured above) also features text in both the English and Russian language – an indication of who the intended audience might have been.