69. Chico Hamilton Quintet with Eric Dolphy / The Original Ellington Suite (1958)
I'm a fan of pianoless jazz groups in general, and no offense to the piano. The dynamics of such a group change without a baby grand to rally around, and a skilled leader like Hamilton can take proceedings into interesting territory. Comping duties fall to guitarist John Pisano (who also has sweet leads) and cellist Nate Gershman. None of this stopped Pacific from losing the tapes and test pressing, rediscovered inside another Chico sleeve in Brighton, England. I'm happy it found its way to Michael Cuscuna who issued the CD, and kudos to the collector who found the test pressing. The music's just great, some of the most refreshing and easygoing jazz I've heard in a while. Dolphy's alto, flute, or clarinet anchor an intimately swinging mood on staples like "In a Sentimental Mood," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," or the talkative "It Don't Mean a Thing." But all the cuts are good. If you're not sold on the cello, listen to that last track, or maybe its warm and reedy tone on "Day Dream" which retains all the emotional import the melody should have, but lacks the sometimes corny sentimentality of a violin.