Chico Hamilton, drums, leader; born Los Angeles, CA, 21 September 1921. Chico started on clarinet. He formed a band with schoolmates including Ernie Royal, Ch. Mingus, I. Jacquet, Buddy Collette, Dexter Gordon, Jack Kelso; worked with Floyd Ray, Lionel Hampton, 1940; Slim & Slam, Lorenzo Flennoy, Lester Young, T-Bone Walker, Duke Ellington, '41. During Army service, '42-'46 studied drums w. Jo Jones and studied reading drum music w. Billy Exner. Toured with Jimmy Mundy, Count Basie. Worked Billy Berg's as house drummer. In '48 joined Lena Horne, stayed with her on and off for six years including European tour. During this time also did studio work including all feature drumming in film Road to Bali; played with Charlie Barnett, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., and Billie Holiday including the Carnegie Hall Concert and recording Lady Sings The Blues; got together with Gerry Mulligan and helped form original quartet, '52 including recordings for Pacific Jazz. In '55, he formed an unusual quintet in L.A. featuring cello, flute, guitar, bass and drums which acquired national following. The original personnel included Buddy Collette, Jim Hall, Fred Katz and Carson Smith. Hamilton continued to tour using different personnel from 1957-60. The group included Paul Horne and John Pisano and was featured in the film Sweet Smell Of Success in 1957. The grouop included Nate Gershman and Eric Dolphy and appeared in the film Jazz On A Summer's Day.
Hamilton revamped group in 1961 with new musical direction. The new group included. Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo and Albert Stinson. They recorded for Columbia, Reprise and Impulse. He also recorded the soundtrack for industrial film Litho in '62, the first American film to be shown behind the Iron Curtain. Hamilton formed commercial and film production company in '65 and scored the feature films Repulsion, Mr. Rico, By Design, Libe Auf Den Ersten Blick, Die Sonnengottin, A Practical Man and Lovers and Other Amateurs. For television, he scored Portrait of Willie Mays and the popular children's series Gerald McBoing Boing. He also scored hundreds of commercials for TV and radio.
He formed a new group with Larry Coryell, Richard Davis and Arnie Lawrence in 1966. They performed at the Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals in '72 and '73. He formed a new "Players" with Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre, Barry Finnerty and Abdullah. He toured with "Players" using different personnel from '76-'80. He was an originating faculty member in 1987 of Parsons New School of Jazz in NYC. He formed a new group "Euphoria" in 1987 with Eric Person, Cary DeNigris and Reggie Washington. They toured Europe in '87, '88, and '90. Performed at Verona, Bolzano, Vienne, Nice, North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals in '89 with regrouped original quintet with. B. Collette, F. Katz, J. Pisano, C. Smith.
He toured Europe with Euphoria group in 1994. Hamilton was the subject of documentary film by director Julian Benedikt, Dancing to a Different Drummer. He took a new trio with C. DeNigris and Kip Reed on tour in U.S., Canada, and Europe. Hamilton signed to Koch Jazz and releases 'FORESTSTORN" 2001 with guest appearances by Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre and his wife Akua Dixon, Eric Person, former Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman (a student of Chico's), Blues Traveler front man John Popper (also a student of Chico's), and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones.
Hamilton spent 1998 and 1999 performing at the Jazz at Drew Festival in Los Angeles, the Jazz Alive Festival in San Antonio, Texas, at the Wild Rose Cafe in Bridgehampton, NY on a benefit for WPBX-FM radio (sold out with Peter Jennings and wife in attendance), at the Bird Of Paradise in Ann Arbor, MI, the Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival in Erie, PA, Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY, on the 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival and even more sold performances by Chico and his Euphoria group in March at Birdland in NYC and back in December on the 'Jazz Live!' series from Flushing Town Hall in NYC.
Chico and his Euphoria group performed at the "Jazz En El Tambo" Festival in Uruguay, then at the Whiskey A Go Go 35th Anniversary Celebration in West Hollywood, CA on a bill which included the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Mighty Clouds of Joy in January 1999. Chico has also keeping busy with speaking engagements following up on his being featured on the cover of the journal "Black Issues in Higher Education", and working on his autobiography, a children's book, and a screenplay based on his early years on the Central Avenue scene in Los Angeles.
Ovation, the cable arts network, presenter of the US TV debut Fall '97 of the Chico Hamilton documentary film, Dancing TO A Different Drummer, rebroadcast the film four times in April 1998. Chico received the Mannes/New School "Beacons of Jazz" award, in recognition for his "significant contribution to the evolution of jazz." Throughout the Fall of '97, Chico and his Euphoria group performed to a sold out audience on the Jazz at Woodstock series, and performed on their first tour in Greece to sold out audiences for 7 nights in Athens, and 1 night each in Kastoria and Thessaloniki. In 1997, Chico and his Euphoria group were honored to spend 5 days in Albi, France where Chico was Artist in Residence (doing clinics, master classes, a performance with a local big band doing arrangements of his music, and several shows with his Euphoria group), and if you will remember Chico's 10 city tour of France in 1996 was declared the Cultural Event of the Month by a national daily newspaper. Also in 1997 was a 7 day tour of the UK with barnstorming dates in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle,Liverpool, Cambridge, Birmingham, Norwich and London. In London Chico also shot a feature for the NBC Europe show 'Talking Jazz' which broadcast this past Fall, following up on the success of the European premiere of the documentary film 'Chico Hamilton- Dancing To A Different Drummer' on the French/German Arts Network ARTE which was seen by 165,000 viewers.
Still reverberating is all the talk about the incendiary performances by Chico and his Euphoria group Summer of 1996 at the Festival Int'l De Jazz De Montreal (broadcast throughout all of Canada by CBC French Radio), at the Ford Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival on two different stages in one day (broadcast throughout all of the US by NPR), at the Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors Festival for 9000 people, at the Brecon Jazz Festival (broadcast throughout Wales on BBC Wales) in Wales, and Chico's first ever performance in Portugal on the Jazz Em Agosto Festival. Also continuing is Chico's impressive run in the Down Beat Reader's Poll placing his 'Arroyo' CD in the 'Jazz Album of the Year' category in 1992, his 'Dancing To A Different Drummer' solo drum CD in the 'Jazz Album of the Year' category in 1995, his Euphoria group placing in the 'Electric Jazz Group' category again in 1997 and the past 6 years, and Chico himself placing in the 'drums' category several times in the past 5 years.
In August 2001, he performed in front of 2300 people at Lincoln Center, "My Funny Valentine- A Tribute to Chico Hamilton" with Euphoria plus special guest appearances from Joe Beck, Arthur Blythe, Larry Coryell, Akua Dixon, Rodney Jones and Eric Person.
In the spring of 2003 he recovered from open heart surgery and soon was back on the road performing. Presently, he's teaching at Mannes New School; touring extensively in North America with new Euphoria group; recording for Koch Jazz; composing and performing music for film; and working on autobiography.