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Chico Hamilton

Chico Hamilton, a subtle and creative drummer, will probably always be remembered for the series of quintets that he led during 1955-1965 and for his ability as a talent scout than for his fine drumming. Hamilton first played drums while in high school with the many fine young players (including Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, and Charles Mingus) who were in Los Angeles at the time. He made his recording debut with Slim Gaillard, was house drummer at Billy Berg's, toured with Lionel Hampton, and served in the military (1942-1946). In 1946, Hamilton worked briefly with Jimmy Mundy, Count Basie, and Lester Young (recording with Young). He toured as Lena Horne's drummer (on and off during 1948-1955), and gained recognition for his work with the original Gerry Mulligan piano-less quartet (1952-1953).

In 1955, Hamilton put together his first quintet, a chamber jazz group with the reeds of Buddy Collette, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and cellist Fred Katz. One of the last important West Coast jazz bands, the Chico Hamilton Quintet was immediately popular and appeared in a memorable sequence in 1958's Jazz on a Summer's Day and the Hollywood film The Sweet Smell of Success. The personnel changed over the next few years (with Paul Horn and Eric Dolphy heard on reeds, cellist Nate Gershman, guitarists John Pisano and Dennis Budimir, and several bassists passing through the group) but it retained its unusual sound. By 1961, Charles Lloyd was on tenor and flute, Gabor Szabo was the new guitarist, and soon the cello was dropped in favor of trombone (Garnett Brown and later George Bohanon), giving the group an advanced hard bop style.

In 1966, Chico Hamilton started composing for commercials and the studios and he broke up his quintet. However, he continued leading various groups, playing music that ranged from the avant-garde to erratic fusion and advanced hard bop. Such up-and-coming musicians as Larry Coryell (1966), Steve Potts (1967), Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre (on bass, surprisingly), and Eric Person (who played in Hamilton's '90s group Euphoria) were among the younger players he helped discover. In 1989, Chico Hamilton had a recorded reunion with the original members of his 1955 quintet (with Pisano in Hall's place), and in the 1990s he made a number of records for Soul Note. He continued playing gigs and recording throughout the 2000s, releasing four albums in 2006 for the label Joyous Shout! in celebration of his 85th birthday. Chico Hamilton died in Manhattan on November 25, 2013; he was 92 years old. His last album, The Inquiring Mind, recorded shortly before his passing, was released in early 2014. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

mjtownley
Chico Hamilton - drums, percussion, vocal on #6; Larry Coryell - electric guitar; Arnie Lawrence - alto saxophone, except #5; Richard Davis - bass

Featuring:

Archie Shepp - piano on #2; Ernie Hayes - organ on #4 and #5
Chico will always live in the heart and soul of music
Chico, we will miss you.
Love your music Chico!
Chico muthaeffin Halmiton!!!! !
compliancedi r e c t i v e s
Does anyone know if "El Chico" has ever been released on CD? I had the LP that included artists Sadao and Gabor. My favorite cuts include People, Strange and Helena. Thanks, Ed from Florida.
Chico Hamilton brings all aspects of jazz music together for me. His experience and broad exposure to many great artists shows up in his music.
In 1958 Chico discovered Eric Dolphy, first session using Dolphy was on Warner Bros. With Strings Attached, Chico is one of my favorite and first influences on the drums. His first album as a leader soon after he left Gerry Mulligan was a 10" Lp on Pacific Jazz Records 17 The Chico Hamilton Trio with Howard Roberts and George Duvivier, Chico would do more recording with his different groups on the label. He still performs and teaches part time and is the oldest surviving Jazz Drummer at 88.
Hamilton, like only a few other percussionis t s , sets and controls the whole momentum of a piece. From the "background" he directs the "stars" up front.

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