November 26, 2013

Jazz drummer, innovator Chico Hamilton dies at 92

Born in Los Angeles, he was in a high school band with future jazz greats Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon.

By Chris Barton
Los Angeles Times

Bandleader, drummer and NEA jazz master Chico Hamilton has died. He was 92 years old.

click image to enlarge

This 2004 photo shows Chico Hamilton, a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship, performing a drum solo in the East Room of the White House during a reception to honor Black Music Month.

The Associated Press

Born Foreststorn Hamilton in Los Angeles in 1921, Hamilton’s music career began with some notable high school classmates including future legends in their own right, Dexter Gordon and Charles Mingus. He eventually went on to perform and tour with Lester Young, Lena Horne and Gerry Mulligan before putting together his first quintet in 1955.

A landmark group that forged the sound of West Coast jazz while featuring the reeds of Buddy Collette, guitarist Jim Hall, Carson Smith on bass and cellist Fred Katz, the group evolved through a wealth of jazz talent, including Eric Dolphy, Gabor Szabo and Charles Lloyd, who joined the band in 1961.

Hamilton’s profile was such that he eventually felt the pull of Hollywood, and his group made a notable cameo in “Sweet Smell of Success” in 1957, which starred Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster and also featured Hamilton’s music. He later wrote the soundtrack for Roman Polanski’s thriller “Repulsion” in 1965.

Hamilton continued leading a number of ensembles, including a soul-jazz album featuring Larry Coryell, “The Dealer,” in 1966 and later the group Euphoria in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He also moved into education, teaching at the Parsons New School of Jazz in New York City and the Mannes College of Music at the New School University. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2004 and continued to record up to his 90th birthday in 2011.

Hamilton’s death was confirmed Tuesday morning by his nephew, Raoul Hamilton.

Foreststorn “Chico” Hamilton, a distiguished jazz drummer, band leader and composer known for inspiring fellow and aspiring musicians, has died. He was 92.

A news release from Hamilton’s publicist says he died Monday in New York City.

An NEA Jazz Master saluted as a Living Jazz Legend by the Kennedy Center, Hamilton recorded more than 60 albums as a band leader, beginning in the 1950s, and also appeared in and scored films.

He founded a commercial and film music production company after moving to New York in 1965 and helped found the New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Program.

Born in Los Angeles in 1921, he was in a high school band with Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon and other classmates destined to become jazz innovators.

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