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Artist Profiles

Chico Hamilton: Joyous Shout

By Published: March 1, 2009
The continued activity—as a teacher, bandleader, composer, recording artist and more—has been accomplished with the extraordinary and tireless work of Hamilton's manager, Jeffrey Caddick. Based in Evansville, Indiana, Caddick booked Hamilton into a college performance many years ago and was soon his manager. Caddick says, "Chico taught two of the most valuable lessons of my life. One is what it means to give yourself unreservedly to something. He consistently crosses the line from playing music to making music. Secondly, he proves that when you create a comfortable and supportive space for others, you provide them with the opportunity to discover their own voices and personalities and then share knowledge with others. This is a remarkable act of humility." And Hamilton notes, "Oh, man! I trust Jeffrey implicitly with everything! He even started a label [Joyous Shout] to release my music. He's a great manager and a wonderful and caring human being."

Some of the recent days have been difficult for Hamilton. In 2008 he lost his wife Helen and his brother Bernie. (Bernie, incidentally, was an actor, a kind of pioneer in film acting by African-Americans.) And, at 87 years old, he's had some health problems. But, says the musician, "Hey, I'm still here! I'm blessed, man! How many guys get to do what I've done? I've played with and known some of the greatest musicians on the planet. My family has been wonderful and supportive. And I'm still writing, studying and teaching music!" So, yes, some things have been difficult, but one look at the activity of this giant lets us know how therapeutic work—and especially the work of making music—can be. Since 2001, he has released nine recordings. On those he has played with old friends Arthur Blythe, George Bohanon, Larry Coryell, Rodney Jones, Joe Beck and more. In addition he has written music for every one of those albums and has taken the opportunity to work with some of his talented students.

Three unique recordings in the Hamilton canon were released in 2008. On Trio! Live @ Artpark, the drummer is at the helm of a trio that includes stalwart guitarist DeNigris and, on a fiery Fender bass, Matthew Garrison, son of Coltrane's famous bassist, Jimmy Garrison. The other Joyous Shout release is Dreams Come True, a rare duo session from 1993 with the late Andrew Hill. Hill and Hamilton were old friends and this collaboration had never before seen the light of day. And for a true change of pace, there is The Alternative Dimensions of El Chico, billed as "recastings from and of" Blaze, 'Joe' Claussell, Fertile Ground, Soul Feast, Mark De Clive-Lowe and Chico himself.

April sees the release of still another new recording called Twelve Tones of Love, featuring some very special guests. First, there's the old cohort George Bohanon on trombone. Then there's a sterling young saxophonist/flutist from Juilliard, Eddie Barbash and a young singer José James—Chico taught him at the New School. "He's terrific," say both Hamilton and Caddick. Finally and possibly most surprising and exciting of all, is the appearance of Jack Kelso. "He's my oldest friend in the world," Hamilton says fondly, "and it's a thrill to have recorded with him."

The thrills of Chico Hamilton keep coming our way too.

Recommended Listening:

Gerry Mulligan, The Original Quartet with Chet Baker (Pacific Jazz-Capitol, 1952-53)

Chico Hamilton, The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings (Pacific Jazz-Mosaic, 1954-59)

Chico Hamilton, Passin' Thru (Man From Two Worlds) (Impulse-GRP, 1962)

Chico Hamilton, The Dealer (Introducing Larry Coryell) (Impulse, 1966)

Chico Hamilton and Euphoria, My Panamanian Friend (Soul Note, 1992)

Chico Hamilton, Believe (Joyous Shout!, 2000-05)

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