Andrew Hill & Chico Hamilton (?!)

Andrew Hill, the knotty avant-garde pianist, and Chico Hamilton, the boisterous polyrhythmic drummer, seem an unlikely pair at first (or second) glance. But they set off fascinating fireworks, and carved out sinuous jags of common ground, in a duet recording, Dreams Come True, just released on Joyous Shout!, an Indiana-based label that I’ve never heard of. (Its website seems to be a sort of shrine to Chico Hamilton merchandise.)

The session was recorded in 1993, and may have been considered too off-handed for public distribution, but this looseness—like a casual conversation—accounts for its appeal, and I’m grateful to be hearing it now. (Hill died last year at age 75, after a long bout with cancer; Hamilton, at age 86, is still active.)

It begins with Hill coaxing a lovely, sinuous ballad from the keyboard; Hamilton enters with marching-band drum rolls; and they’re off. You wonder what the hell’s going on here, but soon the connection seems clear, either because you grow accustomed to it or because the players subtly maneuver toward one another, probably a bit of both. Here and there, it’s a train wreck, but mainly it’s invigorating postmodernism, like a Frank Gehry structure, its styles and motifs raging against the environment and each other but somehow, in the final effect, hanging coherent and true.

If you’re new to Andrew Hill, there are other albums you should check out first: Passing Ships, Point of Departure, Black Fire, and a lovely three-disc set of solo-piano reissues in Mosaic’s Select series, Mosaic Select 16: Andrew Hill. But Dreams Come True is very much worth a close listen too.

The sound quality is straightforward and fine.

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