Andy Hamilton (saxophonist)
Hamilton was born in Port Maria, Jamaica, and learnt to play saxophone on a bamboo instrument. he formed his first band in 1928 with friends who played oil drums and Hamilton a bamboo sax, influenced by American musicians such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie and by the Kingston-based bands of Redver Cook and Roy Coburn.
He spent some time in the U.S., working as a cook and farm labourer, but also having short jazz residencies in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York. After returning to Jamaica, he worked as musical arranger for Errol Flynn at his hotel The Titchfield, and on his yacht the Zaka.
Hamilton emigrated to the UK in 1949, arriving as a stowaway and eventually living and working in Birmingham. His day job was in a factory, while at night he played jazz — with his own group, the Blue Notes formed with fellow Jamaican pianist Sam Brown in 1953. Playing mainly local gigs and functions Hamilton also promoted regular gigs across the city booking an early Steel Pulse and numerous Jamaican bands at The Tower Ballroom, St Johns Restaurant, Accafess, Porsche Club, Junction, Hyatt before establishing regular weekly venue in Bearwood, inviting visiting musicians such as Joe Newman, Al Casey, Teddy Edwards, Art Farmer, Harry Sweets Edison, and David Murray. Hamilton fronted weekly gigs on Thursday nights at Bearwood Corks. His sons Graeme and Mark play trumpet and saxophone respectively.
Having recovered from a diabetic coma in 1986, in 1991 at the age of 73, Hamilton made his first ever recording with Nick Gold, Silvershine on World Circuit Records; it became the biggest selling UK Jazz Album of the Year, The Times Jazz Album of the Year, and one of the 50 Sony Recordings of the Year. It was followed two years later by Jamaica at Night. These recordings led to concerts in St Lucia, Jamaica, Cape Town, Madri, WOMAD, Paris, the Jazz Cafe, Ronnie Scott's, and national tours. He continued to play regularly until his death at the Bearwood Corks Club in Birmingham, and monthly at Birmingham Symphony Hall. His 90th birthday concert was at a long sold-out Birmingham Town Hall featured Courtney Pine, Sonny Bradshaw, Myrna Hague, Lekan Babalola, Nana Tsiboe, son Mark and The Notebenders, a community music project he set up.
In 1996 Hamilton was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts degree by Birmingham University, in 1999 he received a Millennium Fellowship for his work in Community Education, which has involved the establishment of The Ladywood Community School of Music.
Andy Hamilton continued to play, teach and promote music even as he approached his 94th birthday. He died peacefully on 3 June 2012.
- 1991: Silvershine (World Circuit)
- 1994: Jamaica by Night (World Circuit)
- Val Wilmer, Andy Hamilton obituary, The Guardian, 11 June 2012.
- "BBC News - Jazz saxophonist Andy Hamilton dies". Bbc.co.uk. 2007-12-29. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
- Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestley. Jazz: The Rough Guide. ISBN 1-85828-528-3
- Andy Hamilton — brief biography by John Bush for Allmusic
- Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes — Bearwood Corks Club page
- "My life of Jazz" — BBC page