The Chico Hamilton Quintet was a unique Fifties chamber-jazz ensemble. Hamilton was the drummer -- ordinarily an odd choice to lead this kind of group, but Hamilton was probably the most musical drummer in jazz, equal to his contemporary, Shelly Manne, in subtlety and finesse, but tempered by his seven years with singer Lena Horne into a greater musical sensitivity. A west coast jazz deejay, Sleepy Stein, said of Hamilton, pthis man plays music, not drums.h
This was immediately obvious with their first album, The Chico Hamilton Quintet Featuring Buddy Collette (Pacific Jazz PJ-1209), which was recorded in August, 1955 and released later that year. Side one was recorded in a studio on August 23rd, but side two was recorded in a Long Beach club, The Strollers, on August 4th, only a few weeks after the Quintetus formation, and the club ambience is clearly audible. This album was one of the first 12-inch LPs released by Richard Bockts Pacific Jazz label, and is now valued at $30 to $75 by collectors, depending on its condition.
The Quintetts next release was Chico Hamilton Plays South Pacific in Hi-Fi (PJ-1238). Recorded in January, 1958 and released a few months later, it was undoubtedly inspired by the success of Shelly Manne and Andre Previnbs 1956 My Fair Lady album, which spurred many record labels to put out their own jazz versions of Broadway shows. Few achieved the commercial success of Manne & Previn s album, and not many were critical successes either. One discographer lists this album as a 1957 release (which is impossible, given when it was recorded), and mistakenly attributes it to the World Pacific label. Actually, although it was subsequently reissued on World Pacific (WP-1238 in mono, ST-1003 in stereo), it was one of the last releases on Pacific Jazz. It is valued at $20 to $50 as a Pacific Jazz release, and $16 to $40 in either World Pacific version.
Bock s resistance to Dolphy s presence in the Quintet may have been the reason that Chico Hamilton left his label and took the Quintet to the new Warner Bros. label. They recorded three albums for Warner, Chico Hamilton Quintet With Strings Attached (W-1245 or WS-1245), Gongs East! (W-1271/WS-1271), and The Three Faces of Chico (W-1344/WS-1344), the first two released in 1958 and the third in 1959. All are currently valued at $20 to $50 (depending on condition) in mono and $16 to $40 in stereo. These were the last recordings of the Quintet with its original lineup of instrumentation