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Chico Hamilton

Chico Hamilton, a subtle and creative drummer, will probably always be better known for the
series of quintets that he led during 1955-1965 and for his ability as a talent scout than for his
fine drumming. Hamilton first played drums while in high school with the many fine young
players (including Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, and Charles Mingus) who were in
Los Angeles at the time.

He made his recording debut with Slim Gaillard, was house drummer at Billy Berg's, toured
with Lionel Hampton, and served in the military (1942-1946). In 1946, Hamilton worked
briefly with Jimmy Mundy, Count Basie, and Lester Young (recording with Young). He toured
as Lena Horne's drummer (on and off during 1948-1955), and gained recognition for his work
with the original Gerry Mulligan piano-less quartet (1952-1953). In 1955, Hamilton put
together his first quintet, a chamber jazz group with the reeds of Buddy Collette, guitarist Jim
Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and cellist Fred Katz. One of the last important West Coast jazz
bands, the Chico Hamilton Quintet was immediately popular and appeared in a memorable
sequence in 1958's Jazz on a Summmer's Day and the Hollywood film The Sweet Smell of

The personnel changed over the next few years (with Paul Horn and Eric Dolphy heard on
reeds, cellist Nate Gersham, guitarists John Pisano and Dennis Budimir, and several bassists
passing through the group) but it retained its unusual sound. By 1961, Charles Lloyd was on
tenor and flute, Gabor Szabo was the new guitarist, and soon the cello was dropped in favor of
trombone (Garnett Brown and later George Bohanon), giving the group an advanced-hard bop

In 1966, Chico Hamilton started composing for commercials and the studios and he broke up
his quintet. However, he continued leading various groups, playing music that ranged from the
avant-garde to erratic fusion and advanced hard bop. Such up-and-coming musicians as Larry
Coryell (1966), Steve Potts (1967), Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre (on bass, surprisingly), and
Eric Person (who played in Hamilton's '90s group Euphoria) were among the younger players
he helped discover. In 1989, Chico Hamilton had a recorded reunion with the original
members of his 1955 quintet (with Pisano in Hall's place), and in the 1990s he made a number
of records for Soul Note.
Source: Scott Yanow; All Music Guide

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