Chico Hamilton

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For the English footballer nicknamed Chico Hamilton, see Ian Hamilton (footballer born 1950).
Chico Hamilton
Chico Hamilton.jpg
Chico Hamilton appearing at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park, New York City, August 26, 2007
Background information
Birth name Foreststorn Hamilton
Born (1921-09-20)September 20, 1921
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died November 25, 2013(2013-11-25) (aged 92)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Genres Cool jazz, West Coast jazz, Progressive jazz, Free-jazz, Soul-jazz, Hard bop, Post-bop, Crossover jazz, Jazz funk, Boogaloo
Occupation(s) Drummer
Instruments Drums
Associated acts Dexter Gordon, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Count Basie

Chico Hamilton (born Foreststorn Hamilton, September 20, 1921 – November 25, 2013) was an American jazz drummer and bandleader.


Early life and career[edit]

Hamilton was born in Los Angeles, California. His brother was the actor Bernie Hamilton.[1]

Hamilton started his career in a band with Charles Mingus, Illinois Jacquet, Ernie Royal, Dexter Gordon, Buddy Collette and Jack Kelso. Engagements with Lionel Hampton, Slim & Slam, T-Bone Walker, Lester Young, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnet, Billy Eckstine, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan and six years with Lena Horne established his career.[2]

Hamilton appeared in the film You'll Never Get Rich (1941) as part of the backing group supporting Fred Astaire. Hamilton also performed on the soundtrack of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope film Road to Bali (1952).[3]


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 cello, flute, guitar, bass and drums.[4] The quintet has been described as one of the last important West Coast jazz bands.[2] 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 Eric Dolphy appeared in the film Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.[5]

Hamilton revamped his group in 1961 with Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo, George Bohanon and Albert Stinson, playing what has been described as chamber jazz, with "a moderate avant-gardism."[6] The group recorded for Columbia, Reprise 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 Repulsion, By Design, the television program Portrait of Willie Mays and the popular children's series Gerald McBoing Boing, and scored hundreds of commercials for TV and radio.

He performed at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972 and 1973, then formed a new group called "Players" in 1975 with Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre, Barry Finnerty and Abdullah; 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 Note, Mercury Records, 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 Person, Cary DeNigris and Reggie Washington; recorded Euphoria and toured Europe with the group 1987, 1988, 1990. He 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, recording 1991's Reunion for Soul Note. For Soul Note he also recorded Arroyo (1992) with Euphoria, Trio! (1993) with Eric Person, Cary DeNigris, the Eric Dolphy tribute My Panamanian Friend with Euphoria in 1994, and solo drum session Dancing to a Different Drummer. He toured Europe with Euphoria in 1994. Hamilton was the subject of a documentary film by director Julian Benedikt, Dancing to a Different Drummer.

Later career[edit]

Hamilton released Foreststorn in 2001 featuring Euphoria with Cary DeNigris on guitar, Paul Ramsey on bass, and a new two-horn front line with Eric Lawrence on alto and soprano saxes and Evan Schwam on tenor sax, as well as guest appearances from former band members and others. In August 2001 Hamilton performed My Funny Valentine: A Tribute to Chico Hamilton at Lincoln Center with Euphoria plus special guest appearances from Joe Beck, Arthur Blythe, Larry Coryell, Akua Dixon, Rodney Jones and Eric Person. In 2002 he released Thoughts of… with Euphoria.

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, he was awarded a NEA Jazz Master Fellowship. In December 2006, Congress confirmed the President's nomination of Chico Hamilton to the President's 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 being awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts from The New School.

In 2006, Hamilton released four CDs on Joyous Shout! in celebration of his 85th birthday: Juniflip; Believe; 6th Avenue Romp; and Heritage. In 2007, Hamilton released Hamiltonia, sampling his original compositions from the four albums released in 2006.

Over the years, Hamilton 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 his 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 his 1968 Impulse album The Dealer, was included on the Thievery Corporation's Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi. In 2006, Rong Music released the 12-inch vinyl Kerry's Caravan from Mudd and Chico Hamilton, with remixes from Ray Mang. Several remixes of Hamilton recordings were released in the late 2000s.

Hamilton released Twelve Tones of Love on Joyous Shout! in 2009. Maxwell Chandler, in the liner notes, stated: "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."

In March 2011, Hamilton had a long recording session, resulting in 28 new tracks with his Euphoria group. Following a health setback during 2010, Hamilton and his Euphoria group began practicing at weekly rehearsals at Hamilton's Penthouse A; this played an important part in Hamilton's rehabilitation, enhanced the band's playing, and brought together a wealth of new original material.

Revelation was an 11-track CD, which opens and closes with a focus on Hamilton at his drum kit. It contains: 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 Not Alone"; the up-tempo funk of "Black Eyed Peas"; and the bossa funkiness of "Foot Prints in the Sand".

Hamilton died aged 92 on November 25, 2013, in Manhattan.[7][8]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Gábor Szabó


  1. ^ Martin Chilton, "Chico Hamilton, jazz drummer, dies", The Telegraph, November 27, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Chico Hamilton: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  3. ^ Brian Priestley, "Chico Hamilton: Musician", The Independent, December 1, 2013.
  4. ^ Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo. p. 62. ISBN 0-306-80377-1. 
  5. ^ John Fordham, "Chico Hamilton obituary", The Guardian, November 26, 2013.
  6. ^ Berendt, Joachim E (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 294. 
  7. ^ Keepnews, Peter (26 November 2013). "Chico Hamilton, a California Cool Jazzman, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Barton, Chris (26 November 2013). "West Coast jazz great Chico Hamilton dies at 92". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 

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