RIP: Jazz Drummer Chico Hamilton

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Chico Hamilton: Sept. 20, 1921 – Nov. 25, 2013 (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Chico Hamilton was one inventive drummer. He grew up in LA, moved to New York, and recorded amazing albums with sidemen like Buddy Collette, Paul Horn, Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo, and other fantastic musicians. I discovered Man From Two Worlds and Passin’ Thru a long time ago, and still enjoy listening to the long, circular waltz “Lady Gabor” and “El Toro”.  Chico–he may have gotten that nickname because he was small–though he always seemed fierce to me.

Passin’ Thru and Man from Two Worlds were reissued on a double CD a few years ago. I’d get that one first if you’re new to Chico.

Chico-Hamilton-The-Dealer Chico Hamilton Quintet Passin'_Thru_(Chico_Hamilton_album)

He played a blend of East Coast heat and California cool, adding a chamber element with cellist Fred Katz. Paul Horn, the sax and flute player after Buddy Collette and before Charles Lloyd, studied at Oberlin College; Charles Lloyd studied at USC. Working with musicians with different backgrounds gave Chico’s music a different sound. Albert Stinson, the bass player, had a big, deep sound but died early of an overdose. Charles Lloyd told me how much he loved his playing.

I spent some time in New York City in the late 70s and was staying at the East 47th St. Vanderbilt YMCA. I worked out in the pool, where Chico swam every day. We kind of got to know each other then…he was trying to get his health together, and he obviously succeeded, passing away last month at the ripe old age of 92.

Chico, thank you for your gift of music. It will be with us forever.

Here is a great track called “El Toro”: