Chico Hamilton (born Foreststorn Hamilton, September 20, 1921) is an American jazz drummer and bandleader.

Biography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Early life through 1960s[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Hamilton was born in Los AngelesCalifornia. He had a fast-track musical education in a band with Charles MingusIllinois JacquetErnie RoyalDexter GordonBuddy Collette and Jack Kelso. Engagements with Lionel HamptonSlim & SlamT-Bone WalkerLester YoungCount BasieDuke EllingtonCharlie BarnetBilly EckstineNat King ColeSammy Davis Jr.Billie HolidayGerry Mulligan and six years with Lena Horne established him as a jazz drummer,[1] and he struck out on his own as a bandleader in 1955.

Hamilton appeared in the March Milastaire number in the film You'll Never Get Rich (1941) as part of the backing group supporting Fred Astaire, and performed on the soundtrack of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope film Road to Bali.

He recorded his first album as leader in 1955 with George Duvivier (double-bass) and Howard Roberts (jazz guitar) for Pacific Jazz. In same year Hamilton formed an unusual quintet in L.A. featuring cellofluteguitarbass and drums.[2] The quintet has been described as one of the last important West Coast Jazz bands.[1] The original personnel included flutist Buddy Collette, guitarist Jim Hall, cellist Fred Katz and bassist Jim Aton, who was later replaced by Carson Smith. Hamilton continued to tour, using different personnel, from 1957 to 1960. The group including flutist Paul Horn and John Pisano was featured in the film Sweet Smell of Success in 1957. The same group, this time including Nate Gershman and Eric Dolphy appeared in the filmJazz on a Summer's Day in 1960. He marked his first recordings with Eric Dolphy on With Strings AttachedGongs EastThe Three Faces of Chico, and That Hamilton Man.

Hamilton revamped his group in 1961 with Charles LloydGabor SzaboGeorge Bohanon and Albert Stinson, playing what has been described as "a moderate avant-gardism."[3] The group recorded for ColumbiaReprise and Impulse Records and also recorded the soundtrack for the industrial film Litho in 1962, the first American film to be shown behind the Iron Curtain. Hamilton formed a commercial and film production company in 1965; scored the feature films RepulsionMr. RicoBy DesignLiebe Auf Den Ersten BlickDie Sonnengottin, and A Practical Man; scored for television Portrait of Willie Mays and the popular children's series Gerald McBoing Boing, and scored hundreds of commercials for TV and radio.

He formed a new group with Larry CoryellRichard Davis and Arnie Lawrence in 1966 and recorded The Dealer for Impulse Records.

1970s onwards[edit source | editbeta]Edit

He performed at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972 and 1973, then formed a new group called Players in 1975 with Arthur BlytheSteve TurreBarry Finnerty and Abdullah[disambiguation needed]; also, wrote and performed the musical score for the movie Coonskin in same year. Hamilton toured with Players using different personnel in 1976-80; recorded for Blue NoteMercury RecordsNautilus and Elektra. Originating faculty member in 1987 of New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music Program.

He formed another group named Euphoria in 1987 with Eric PersonCary DeNigris and Reggie Washington; recorded Euphoria and toured Europe with the group 1987, 1988, 1990. Performed at Verona, Bolzano, Vienne, Nice, North Sea Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festivals in 1989 with regrouped original quintet with Buddy Collette, Fred Katz, John Pisano, Carson Smith; recorded Reunion for Soul Note. For Soul Note records Arroyo with Euphoria group, Trio! w.Eric Person, Cary DeNigris, Eric Dolphy tribute My Panamanian Friend with Euphoria group, and solo drum session Dancing to a Different Drummer. Toured Europe with Euphoria in 1994. Hamilton was the subject of a documentary film by director Julian BenediktDancing to a Different Drummer.

Hamilton released Foreststorn in 2001 featuring Euphoria with Cary DeNigris on guitar, Paul Ramsey on bass, and a new two horn front line featuring Eric Lawrence on alto and soprano saxes and Evan Schwam on tenor sax, as well as special guest appearances from former band members Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre and his wife Akua DixonEric Person, former Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman (a student of Chico's), Blues Traveler front man John Popper (also a student of Chico's), and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones. In August 2001 he performed in front of 2300 people at Lincoln Center My Funny Valentine: A Tribute to Chico Hamilton with Euphoria plus special guest appearances fromJoe Beck, Arthur Blythe, Larry Coryell, Akua DixonRodney Jones and Eric Person. In fall 2002 he released Thoughts of… with Euphoria, with special guest appearances from guitarists and former band members Joe Beck, Larry Coryell and Rodney Jones.

In 1997, Hamilton received the New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music Programs Beacons in Jazz Award in recognition for his "significant contribution to the evolution of Jazz." In 2002, he was awarded the WLIU-FM Radio Lifetime Achievement Award. At the IAJE in NYC January 2004, Hamilton was awarded a NEA Jazz Master Fellowship, presented to him by Roy Haynes. In December 2006, Congress confirmed the President's nomination of Chico Hamilton to the Presidents Council on the Arts. And in 2007, Hamilton received a Living Legend Jazz Award as part of The Kennedy Center Jazz in Our Time Festival, as well as receiving a Doctor of Fine Arts from The New School.

Hamilton has a resume that includes scores for film, original compositions, commercial jingles, albums as a leader, and countless international tours. In 2006, he released four CDs on Joyous Shout! in celebration of his 85th birthday:Juniflip featuring guest appearances from Love front-man Arthur Lee, vocalist (and successful actor) Bill Henderson, and former Hamilton band members trombonist George Bohanon and bass trombonist Jimmy CheathamBelieve with special guest appearances from vocalist and rhythm and blues singer Fontella Bass and trombonist George Bohanon; 6th Avenue Romp featuring special guest appearances from guitarist Shuggie Otis, trumpeter Jon Faddis, trombonist George Bohanon, vocalist Brenna Bavis and percussionist Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers Band; and Heritage with special guest appearances from vocalist Marya Lawrence and trombonist George Bohanon. In September 2007, he released Hamiltonia sampling his original compositions from the four albums released in 2006.

Over the years, Hamilton has had a series of dance successes, including his signature song "Conquistadors" from his 1960s Impulse album El Chico, and the Brazilian influenced song "Strut" from Hamilton's 1980 Elektra album,Nomad, which became so successful on the Northern Soul scene in the U.K. that it had its own dance. In 2002 a track titled "For Mods Only" from Hamilton's 1968 Impulse album The Dealer, was included on the Thievery Corporation'sSounds from the Verve Hi-Fi. In 2006, Rong Music released the 12" vinyl Kerry's Caravan from Mudd and Chico Hamilton, with remixes from long-term Idjut Boys collaborator and Fiasco imprint boss Ray Mang. And the recent Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked Remix Project features Mark De Clive-Lowe's remix of Chico's song "El Toro." Released in December 2007 from SoulFeast (Joaquin 'Joe' Claussell and Brian Michel Bacchus) is a 12" single on 180 gram vinyl of their recasting of Chico's track "Mysterious Maiden," in 2008 from SoulFeast is a CD EP Chico Hamilton Presents: Alternative Dimensions of El Chico, and in 2009 a 12" double vinyl version of Chico Hamilton Presents: Alternative Dimensions of El Chico.

He was interviewed by the online magazine's critique Arnold Jay Smith in 2008.[4]

Hamilton released Twelve Tones of Love on Joyous Shout! in 2009. From Maxwell Chandler’s liner notes: “Chico Hamilton looks back not as a summation but with the past as a jumping off point to where he is now; the foundation to build off of what he has to say in the here and now. This album has Chico writing for and playing with an enlarged ensemble, offering us a glimpse of his life’s journey and some of those he has shared it with. It speaks greatly of all the musicians’ skills that they are performing Chico’s compositions yet their interplay becomes another color on his palette, which allows him to further embellish the picture he is painting. This is one of the appealing aspects to all of Chico’s music, an always-organic sense of tension and release. Guest spots include trombonist George Bohanon, who was in one of Chico’s classic sixties ensembles; vocalist Jose James, who studied under Chico at New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music program; and multi-reedist Jack Kelso, Chico’s lifelong friend. This album is a celebration of a lifelong romance Chico has had with music and the relationships that came into his life both past and present through his service to the muse. Those who forge their own way may travel a harder road but their art loses none of its power with the passage of time because of these trials. Twelve Tones of Love is proof of that aphorism to continuously enjoy”.

In March 2011, with his 90th birthday six months off, Hamilton trekked out of his New York City penthouse apartment to helm a marathon recording session resulting in 28 new tracks with his Euphoria group. No one woodsheds like a jazz drummer, and coming off a health setback during the Summer of 2010, Hamilton and his Euphoria group began sheding at weekly rehearsals at Hamilton’s Penthouse A. These weekly rehearsals played an important part in Hamilton’s rehabilitation, facilitated Hamilton and his group becoming very tight with each other and exploring places musically they had not previously gone together, and brought together a wealth of new original material, offered up in three courses, each of which is a different viewpoint of Hamilton’s Revelation.

The Revelation EP on 10” vinyl- Hamilton’s very first recording as a leader, Chico Hamilton Trio in 1955 on Pacific Jazz with Howard Roberts & George Duvivier, was pressed up on 10” vinyl. So it seemed a fitting tribute to Chico’s longevity as a leader for a selection of Chico originals, two tracks of which are exclusive to this format, 58 years later to be presented in the same format.

The Revelation was an 11 track CD, which opens and closes with a focus on Hamilton at his drum kit, and in-between takes us on a different journey from both the melodic and rhythmic points of view. From the up-tempo Latin groove of “Evanly” with its vocal out chorus; the mid tempo swing of “No Way LA” and “Ten Minutes To Twelve”; the Lunceford-like band vocals on “Stompin’ at The Savoy” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing)”; to Hamilton’s vocalizing on “Every Time I Smile”; the pastoral melodic beauty of “You’re Note Alone”; the up-tempo funk of “Black Eyed Peas”; and the bossa funkiness of “Foot Prints in the Sand”.

From the Revelation CD liner notes by Maxwell Chandler: ”The excitement of new works from Chico is not derived from any absence as he has not stopped, nor is it due to the curiosity factor of seeing what type of artistic phase he is entering into. He does not create in that manner or care about such things, bringing the best of what he has found with him even if only as a component to further his forward moving trajectory. The excitement is due to the knowledge that here is an addition to the oeuvre of an artist who is the rare to find, possessor of freedom derived equally from intellect and soul.”

Hamilton is busy working on his video memoir, composing and performing music for film, and working on additional album releases, performing with his Euphoria group: Paul Ramsey on bass; Nick Demopoulos on guitar; Evan Schwamon saxes, flute & piccolo; Mayu Saeki on flute, alto flute and piccolo; and Jeremy Carlstedt on drums and percussion. Saluted by the Kennedy Center as a “Living Jazz Legend”, and appointed to the National Council on the Arts, Hamilton is considered one of the most important living jazz artists and composers.[by whom?]

His brother was the actor Bernie Hamilton.

Discography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

As leader[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • 1955: Chico Hamilton Trio (10" LP)
  • 1955: Chico Hamilton Quintet feat. Buddy Collette
  • 1960: Original Chico Hamilton Quintet
  • 1956: Chico Hamilton Quintet In Hi-Fi
  • 1956: Chico Hamilton Trio (12" LP)
  • 1957: Chico Hamilton Quintet
  • 1957: Zen: The Music Of Fred Katz
  • 1957: Sweet Smell Of Success
  • 1958: South Pacific In Hi-Fi
  • 1958: Chico Hamilton Trio intro. Freddie Gambrel
  • 1959: Ellington Suite (1958 version with Eric Dolphy released 2000)
  • 1959: With Strings Attached
  • 1959: Gongs East!
  • 1959: The Three Faces Of Chico
  • 1959: That Hamilton Man
  • 1960: Bye Bye Birdie/Irma La Douce
  • 1960 'Chico Hamilton Special
  • 1962: Drumfusion
  • 1962: Litho
  • 1962: A Different Journey
  • 1962: Passin' Thru (Impulse!)
  • 1963: The Great Chico Hamilton Featuring Paul Horn (Crown Records CLP 5341)
  • 1963: Man from Two Worlds (Impulse!)
  • 1965: Chic Chic Chico (Impulse!)
  • 1966: El Chico (Impulse!)
  • 1966: The Further Adventures of El Chico (Impulse!)
  • 1966: The Dealer (Impulse!)
  • 1967: The Best of Chico Hamilton
  • 1968: The Gamut
  • 1969: The Head Hunters
  • 1970: El Exigente/The Demanding One
  • 1973: The Master
  • 1974: Live At Montreux (with Albert King and Little Milton)
  • 1975: Peregrinations
  • 1976: The Players
  • 1977: Catwalk
  • 1979: Reaching For The Top
  • 1980: Nomad
  • 1988: Euphoria
  • 1990: Transfusion
  • 1991: Reunion
  • 1992: Arroyo
  • 1993: Trio!
  • 1994: My Panamanian Friend (The Music Of Eric Dolphy)
  • 1994: Dancing To A Different Drummer
  • 1998: Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings of the Chico Hamilton Quintet
  • 1999 Timely
  • 2000: Original Ellington Suite (recorded 1958)
  • 2001: Foreststorn
  • 2002: Thoughts Of...
  • 2006: Juniflip
  • 2006: Believe
  • 2006: 6th Avenue Romp
  • 2006: Heritage
  • 2007: Hamiltonia
  • 2007: Mysterious Maiden 12” 180 gram vinyl
  • 2008: It's About Time EP
  • 2008: Chico Hamilton Presents: Alternative Dimensions of El Chico EP
  • 2008: Andrew Hill and Chico Hamilton- Dreams Come True
  • 2008: Trio! Live @ Artpark
  • 2009: The Alternative Dimensions of El Chico 12” double vinyl
  • 2009: Twelve Tones of Love
  • 2011: Revelation EP 10" vinyl
  • 2011: Euphoric EP
  • 2011: Revelation

As sideman[edit source | editbeta]Edit

With Gábor Szabó

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