Jimmy Hamilton

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Jimmy Hamilton
Jimmy Hamilton and Harry Carney, Aquarium NYC, c. November 1946 Photography by William P. Gottlieb
Jimmy Hamilton and Harry Carney, Aquarium NYC, c. November 1946
Photography by William P. Gottlieb
Background information
Birth nameJames Hamilton
Born(1917-05-25)May 25, 1917
Dillon, South Carolina, United States
DiedSeptember 20, 1994(1994-09-20) (aged 77)
St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Instrument(s)Clarinet, saxophone

Jimmy Hamilton (May 25, 1917 – September 20, 1994)[1] was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, who was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.


Hamilton was born in Dillon, South Carolina, United States,[2] and grew up in Philadelphia. Having learned to play piano and brass instruments, in the 1930s he started playing the latter in local bands before switching to clarinet and saxophone.[2] During this time he studied with clarinet teacher Leon Russianoff. In 1939, he played with Lucky Millinder, Jimmy Mundy, and Bill Doggett, going on to join the Teddy Wilson sextet in 1940.[2] After two years with Wilson, he played with Eddie Heywood and Yank Porter.

In 1943, he replaced Barney Bigard in the Duke Ellington orchestra and stayed with Ellington until 1968.[2] His style was different on his two instruments: on tenor saxophone he had an R&B sound, while on clarinet he was much more precise and technical. He wrote some of his own material in his time with Ellington.

After he left the Ellington orchestra, Hamilton played and arranged on a freelance basis before spending the 1970s and 1980s in the Virgin Islands teaching music.[2] On his retirement from teaching, he continued to perform with his own groups in 1989 and 1990. Hamilton died on September 20, 1994, in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, at the age of 77.[1]


As leader[edit]

  • Clarinet in High Fi (Urania, 1955)
  • Jimmy Hamilton and the New York Jazz Quintet (Urania, 1956)
  • Swing Low Sweet Clarinet (Everest, 1960)
  • It's About Time (Prestige Swingville, 1961)
  • Can't Help Swinging (Prestige Swingville, 1961)
  • In a Sentimental Mood (World Record Club, 1963)
  • Rediscovered at the Buccaneer (Who's Who in Jazz, 1985)
  • S'weet But (Hot Drive, 1997)
  • Tribute to Barney Bigard and Russell Procope (Squatty Roo, 2014)

With Clarinet Summit

  • In Concert at the Public Theater (India Navigation, 1984)
  • Southern Bells (Black Saint, 1987)

As sideman[edit]

With Duke Ellington

With Johnny Hodges

With others


  1. ^ a b Watrous, Peter (September 22, 1994). "Jimmy Hamilton, 77, Clarinetist Integral to the Ellington Sound". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.

External links[edit]