Chico Hamilton, Drummer
Interviewer: Dr. Billy Taylor
Legendary jazz drummer and bandleader Chico Hamilton, born September 21st, 1921 in Los Angeles, had a fast track musical education in a band with his schoolmates Charles Mingus, Illinois Jacquet, Ernie Royal, Dexter Gordon, Buddy Collette and Jack Kelso. Engagements with Lionel Hampton, Slim & Slam, T-Bone Walker, Lester Young, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnett, Billy Eckstine, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Gerry Mulligan and six years with Lena Horne established this young West Coast prodigy as a jazz drummer on the rise, before striking out on his own as a bandleader in 1955.
Chico’s impact upon jazz includes the introduction of two unique and distinct sounds: first in 1955 with his Original Quintet which combined the sounds of his drums, the bass of Carson Smith, the guitar of Jim Hall, the cello of Fred Katz, and the flute of Buddy Collette; and the second in 1962 with his own drums, the bass of Albert Stinson, the guitar of Gabor Szabo, the tenor sax of Charles Lloyd, and the trombone of George Bohanon.
In 1997, Chico received the New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Programs Beacons in Jazz Award in recognition for his "significant contribution to the evolution of Jazz". In 2002, Chico was awarded the WLIU-FM Radio Lifetime Achievement Award. At the IAJE in NYC January 2004, Hamilton was awarded a NEA Jazz Master Fellowship, presented to him by Roy Haynes. In December 2006, Congress confirmed the President’s nomination of Chico to the Presidents Council on the Arts. And in 2007, Chico received a Living Legacy Jazz Award as part of The Kennedy Centers Jazz in Our Time Festival, as well as receiving a Doctor of Fine Arts from The New School.
Dynamic as ever at the age of 86, Chico Hamilton has a resume that includes scores for film, original compositions, commercial jingles, 50 + albums as a leader, and countless international tours.
Listen to Audio from the event here: