Chico Hamilton Biography

Foreststorn Hamilton, 21 September 1921, Los Angeles, California, USA. Hamilton’s future career as a drummer was well established even before he left school. By that time he had played with many other young fledgling jazz artists, including Dexter Gordon, Ernie Royal, Charles Mingus and Buddy Collette (who would later become his musical partner). In 1940 he performed briefly with Lionel Hampton and Slim Gaillard, but military service interrupted his career. In the late 40s he worked with Jimmy Mundy, Count Basie and Lester Young; between 1948 and 1955 he was regular accompanist to Lena Horne. In 1952 he recorded with Gerry Mulligan’s revolutionary pianoless quartet and in 1955 formed his own quartet which, with shifting personnel, remained in existence for several years.

Hamilton’s groups of the 50s featured several outstanding musicians - among them Collette, Fred Katz, Eric Dolphy, Ralph Peña, Dennis Budimir and Ron Carter - and experimented with unusual instrumental combinations, notably cello and flute. Their relaxed, mellow sound attracted the attention of fringe jazz audiences and their popularity was enhanced by the film, Jazz On A Summer’s Day (1960), which showed the group in rehearsal for their appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. In the 60s Hamilton’s group continued to perform, but changes in instrumentation and style saw the cello replaced by the trombone. In the mid-60s Hamilton was invited to write and perform advertising jingles; this proved so successful that he formed a production company, the running of which kept him from active participation in jazz for several years. In the mid-80s, however, he was back with a new band, Euphoria, which he described as ‘heavy metal jazz’ and had started to record again. In the 90s and into the new millennium he was particularly prolific, (in 2006 alone he released four new albums) notably recording with younger musicians wanting to be associated with a giant from the golden age.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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