Legendary jazz drummer and bandleader Foreststorn Chico Hamilton, born September 20th, 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 91, Chico Hamilton has a resume that includes scores for film, original compositions, commercial jingles, 50 + albums as a leader, and countless international tours. In 2006, Chico released four CD's on Joyous Shout! in celebration of his 85th birthday: "Juniflip" featuring guest appearances from- legendary Love front-man Arthur Lee, criminally under-rated vocalist (and successful actor) Bill Henderson, and former Hamilton band members trombonist George Bohanon and bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham; "Believe" with Special Guest appearances from vocalist and R & B Diva Fontella Bass and trombonist George Bohanon; "6th Avenue Romp" featuring Special Guest appearances from guitarist Shuggie Otis, trumpeter Jon Faddis, trombonist George Bohanon, vocalist Brenna Bavis and percussionist Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers Band; and "Heritage" with Special Guest appearances from vocalist Marya Lawrence and trombonist George Bohanon. September 2007, Chico released "Hamiltonia" sampling his original compositions from the four albums released in 2006. "Hamiltonia" is an impassioned statement of purpose- an emphatic endorsement of writing and performing THIS music in the NOW, the way the GREATS did in their time, and confirms Hamilton's status as one of the most important living jazz artists and composers.
2008 saw four releases from Chico on Joyous Shout!, two EP's and two previously unreleased recordings, each of which provide a different perspective on the Chico Hamilton experience. Paying homage to Chico's past, the "It's About Time!" EP revisits his first ever recording project as band leader/percussionist. In 1955, Chico recorded a trio album for Pacific Jazz with George Duvivier and Howard Roberts; fast-forward 53 years, and Chico has recast it with his long time collaborators Cary DeNigris on guitar and Paul Ramsey on bass. Chico's distinctive grooves have been rediscovered and refused on the "The Alternate Dimensions of El Chico" EP, a collection of dance/remix tracks and collaborative works with some of today's hottest turntablists including Fertile Ground, SoulFeast (Joe Claussell and Brian Michel Bacchus), Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Blaze. On "Dreams Come True", recorded in 1993, NEA Jazz Masters Andrew Hill and Chico Hamilton deliver a masterpiece of modern improvised music. The two giants are repositories of the history of this music, and here they create a document containing more then is stored in all the history books, sharing and preserving ancient stories and traditions thru their mutual song. And "Trio! Live @ Artpark", recorded in 1994, documents a blazing performance from a power trio led by Hamilton, with guitarist Cary DeNigris and bassist Matthew Garrison- the son of the late Jimmy Garrison. Witness the remarkable synergy and energy between the three as Hamilton leads his steeds thru a series of originals and a heady romp on "Tickle Toe".
Over the years, Chico has had a series of dance floor successes, including his signature song "Conquistadors" from his 60's Impulse album "El Chico", and the Brazilian influenced song "Strut" from Chico's 1979 outing on Elektra "Nomad", which became so successful on the Northern Soul Scene in the U.K. that it had its own dance!! "Conquistadors" also was the signature track for E-man when he rocked the dance floor at Frank's Cocktail Lounge in Brooklyn. In 2002 a track titled "For Mods Only" from Chico's 1968 Impulse album "The Dealer", was included on the Thievery Corporations "SOUNDS FROM THE VERVE HI-FI". Fall of 2005, Rong Music released the 12" vinyl "Kerry's Caravan" from Mudd & Chico Hamilton, a moody yet stunning slice of modern music and a molten melting pot ready made for filling the dance floor with remixes from long-term Idjut Boys collaborator and Fiasco imprint boss Ray Mang. The IMPULSIVE! Remix Project features Mark De Clive Lowe's take on Chico's classic 60s track "El Toro". OUT NOW is the limited edition 12" 180 gram vinyl from SoulFeast (Brian Michel Bacchus & Joaquin "Joe" Claussell) with their reworking of "Mysterious Maiden" from Chico's 1980 "Nomad" release, as well as the 12" double vinyl edition of "The Alternative Dimensions of El Chico" CD EP. Available thru www.dopejams.net (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hamilton released Twelve Tones of Love on Joyous Shout! in 2009. From Maxwell Chandler's liner notes: "Chico Hamilton looks back not as a summation but with the past as a jumping off point to where he is now; the foundation to build off of what he has to say in the here and now. This album has Chico writing for and playing with an enlarged ensemble, offering us a glimpse of his life's journey and some of those he has shared it with. It speaks greatly of all the musicians' skills that they are performing Chico's compositions yet their interplay becomes another color on his palette, which allows him to further embellish the picture he is painting. This is one of the appealing aspects to all of Chico's music, an always-organic sense of tension and release. Guest spots include trombonist George Bohanon, who was in one of Chico's classic sixties ensembles; vocalist Jose James, who studied under Chico at New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music program; and multi-reedist Jack Kelso, Chico's lifelong friend. This album is a celebration of a lifelong romance Chico has had with music and the relationships that came into his life both past and present through his service to the muse. Those who forge their own way may travel a harder road but their art loses none of its power with the passage of time because of these trials. Twelve Tones of Love is proof of that aphorism to continuously enjoy".
In March of 2011, with his 90th birthday six months off, Hamilton trekked out of his New York City penthouse apartment to helm a marathon recording session resulting in 28 new tracks with his Euphoria group. No one woodsheds like a jazz drummer, and coming off a health setback during the Summer of 2010, Hamilton and his Euphoria group began sheding at weekly rehearsals at Hamilton's Penthouse A. These weekly rehearsals played an important part in Hamilton's rehabilitation, facilitated Hamilton and his group becoming very tight with each other and exploring places musically they had not previously gone together, and brought together a wealth of new original material, offered up in three courses, each of which is a different viewpoint of Hamilton's Revelation.
The Revelation EP on 10" vinyl- Hamilton's very first recording as a leader, Chico Hamilton Trio in 1955 on Pacific Jazz with Howard Roberts & George Duvivier, was pressed up on 10" vinyl. So it seemed a fitting tribute to Chico's longevity as a leader for a selection of Chico originals, two tracks of which are exclusive to this format, 58 years later to be presented in the same format.
The Euphoric EP, on CD- Hamilton's very proud of each member of his Euphoria group, both in how they have matured as players and in how they have developed as composers. A testament to both the prowess of each group member as a composer, and to Hamilton's strength as a leader, this release is a tip of the hat from Hamilton to his Euphoria group gathering the group members original compositions together, half of which are exclusive to this format.
The Revelation CD- With 11 tracks exclusive to this format, Revelation opens and closes with a focus on Hamilton @ his drum kit, and in-between takes us on a different journey from both the melodic and rhythmic points of view. From the up-tempo Latin groove of "Evanly" with its vocal out chorus; the mid tempo swing of "No Way LA" & "Ten Minutes To Twelve"; the Lunceford-like band vocals on "Stompin' @ The Savoy" & "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing)"; to Hamilton's vocalizing on "Every Time I Smile"; the pastoral melodic beauty of "You're Not Alone"; the up-tempo funk of "Black Eyed Peas"; and the bossa funkiness of "Foot Prints in the Sand" with its starkly beautiful vocal out chorus- every track is like turning a page in a book that's holding you on the edge of your seat, your rapt attention dying to know what's next to be revealed. And indeed what a revelation are these 22 tracks!!
From the Revelation CD liner notes by Maxwell Chandler: "The excitement of new works from Chico is not derived from any absence as he has not stopped, nor is it due to the curiosity factor of seeing what type of artistic phase he is entering into. He does not create in that manner or care about such things, bringing the best of what he has found with him even if only as a component to further his forward moving trajectory. The excitement is due to the knowledge that here is an addition to the oeuvre of an artist who is the rare to find, possessor of freedom derived equally from intellect and soul."
Hamilton was considered one of the most important jazz artists and composers, creating vivid, positive, uplifting, engaging & relevant music until the end of his life. Hamilton died on November 25, 2013 at his apartment in New York City @ the age of 92. Shortly before his death, Hamilton recorded newly composed material with his long-standing Euphoria ensemble, along with featured guest appearances from trombonist George Bohanon and fellow NEA Jazz Master trumpeter Jimmy Owens, for "The Inquiring Mind" CD released on Joyous Shout! February, 2014.
From Maxwell Chandler's liner notes: "Chico occupies a rarefied place among few other artists. His musicianship is not just about virtuosity delivered via a now familiar voice but an organically occurring enmeshment with his art, the drums and other percussion being not merely his instrument but his voice, his ensemble(s) the canvas upon which he paints with his compositions. This album presents a catalyst for aurally induced reverie. A thousand thoughts, each a color which further paints a picture that is always compelling; emphasizing different aspects of itself with each listen. In the ultimate act of entrainement, our heartbeats echo the distant throb of the big bang. Now the universe sets its toes to tapping to the sound of the cymbals. Everyone is happy for the same reasons but each in their own way. Chico continues to keep time in rhythm and emotion."
A monthly event takes place @ DROM in New York City, EUPHORIA Presents "Celebrating the Life & Music of FORESTSTORN 'CHICO' HAMILTON," featuring Chico's long standing EUPHORIA ensemble with Paul Ramsey, Evan Schwam, Jeremy Carlstedt, Mayu Saeki & Nick Demopolous. And stay tuned for news from Director Jeff Chenault of Eleven07 about his upcoming Chico videography, soon to be showing on a screen near you.