Legendary jazz drummer and bandleader Foreststorn "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, Sarah Vaughn, 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.
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 incl. recordings for Pacific Jazz. Recorded first lp as leader in '55 with George Duvivier and Howard Roberts for Pacific Jazz; in '55 formed an unusual quintet in L.A. feat. cello, flute, guitar, bass and drums which acquired national following; the original personnel incl. Buddy Collette, Jim Hall, Fred Katz and Carson Smith; Hamilton continued to tour using different personnel '57-'60; group incl. Paul Horne and John Pisano feat. in the film SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS in '57; group incl. Nate Gershman and Eric Dolphy app. in film JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY in '60; Dolphy makes first recordings with Hamilton on WITH STRINGS ATTACHED, GONGS EAST!, THE THREE FACES OF CHICO, and THAT HAMILTON MAN.
Hamilton revamps group in '61 with new musical direction; new group incl. Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo, George Bohanon and Albert Stinson; group records for Columbia, Reprise and Impulse; also records soundtrack for industrial film LITHO in '62, the first American film to be shown behind the Iron Curtain. Hamilton forms commercial and film production company in '65; scores the feature films REPULSION, MR. RICO, BY DESIGN, LIEBE AUF DEN ERSTEN BLICK, DIE SONNENGOTTIN, and A PRACTICAL MAN; scores for television PORTRAIT OF WILLIE MAYS and the popular children's series GERALD MCBOING BOING; scores hundreds of commercials for TV and radio. Forms new group with Larry Coryell, Richard Davis and Arnie Lawrence in '66 and records THE DEALER for Impulse. Performs Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals in '72 and '73. Forms new "Players" group in '75 w. Arthur Blythe, Steve Turre, Barry Finnerty and Abdullah; tours with "Players" using different personnel '76-'80; records for Blue Note, Mercury, Nautilus and Elektra. Originating faculty member in '87 of New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Program.
Forms new group "Euphoria" in '87 w. Eric Person, Cary DeNigris and Reggie Washington; records EUPHORIA '87; tours Europe with "EUPHORIA" '87, '88, '90. Performs at Verona, Bolzano, Vienne, Nice, North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals in '89 with regrouped original quintet w. B. Collette, F. Katz, J. Pisano, C. Smith; records REUNION for Soul Note. For Soul Note records ARROYO with "Euphoria" group, TRIO! w. E. Person , C. DeNigris, Eric Dolphy tribute MY PANAMANIAN FRIEND with 'Euphoria' group, and solo drum session DANCING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER. Tours Europe with "Euphoria" group '94. Hamilton subject of documentary film by director Julian Benedikt DANCING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER '94. 1997 Hamilton receives the New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Program's Beacons in Jazz Award in recognition for his "significant contribution to the evolution of Jazz".
Hamilton releases FORESTSTORN in 2001 featuring his new "Euphoria" group with stalwarts Cary DeNigris on guitar, Paul Ramsey on bass, and a new two horn front line featuring Eric Lawrence on alto and soprano saxes and Evan Schwam on tenor sax, as well as Special Guest Appearances from Former Band members 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. August 2001 performs 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. Fall 2002 releases THOUGHTS OF... with his "Euphoria" group with Special Guest Appearances from guitarists and former band members Joe Beck, Larry Coryell and Rodney Jones. Also in 2002, Hamilton is awarded the WLIU-FM Radio Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the IAJE in NYC January 2004, Hamilton is awarded a NEA Jazz Master Fellowship, presented to him by Roy Haynes. In 2006, in celebration of 85th Birthday, Hamilton releases four albums on Joyous Shout!, JUNIFLIP, BELIEVE, 6TH AVENUE ROMP, and HERITAGE. These four releases mark the first time CD's w/ Mini-LP covers are produced in the US. Each album features his "Euphoria" group incl. Cary DeNigris- guitar, Paul Ramsey- bass, Evan Schwam- flute, soprano & tenor saxes, Geoffrey Countryman- flute, clarinet, alto & baritone saxes, Karolina Strassmayer- flute, alto & soprano saxes, Andrew Hadro- flute, clarinet, alto & baritone saxes, and Jeremy Carldstedt- percussion. "JUNIFLIP" features guest appearances from legendary Love front-man Arthur Lee, vocalist (and successful actor) Bill Henderson, and former Hamilton band members trombonist George Bohanon and bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham. BELIEVE features guest appearances from R & B Diva vocalist Fontella Bass and trombonist George Bohanon. 6th AVENUE ROMP features guest appearances from guitarist Shuggie Otis, trumpeter Jon Faddis, trombonist George Bohanon, and Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe. HERITAGE features guest appearances from trombonist George Bohanon and vocalist Marya Lawrence. In 2007, Hamilton releases HAMILTONIA sampling his original compositions from the four albums released in 2006, plus some previously unreleased tracks. 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.
In December 2006, Congress confirms the President's nomination of Hamilton to the Presidents Council on the Arts. In 2007, Hamilton receives a Living Legacy Jazz Award as part of The Kennedy Centers Jazz in Our Time Festival, as well as receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from The New School.
Over the years, Hamilton 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". In 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! And the recent "IMPULSIVE" Remix Project features Mark De Clive Lowe's take on Chicos classic 60s track " El Toro". In 2007 Hamilton released a 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 , and in 2009 a 12" double vinyl edition of "The Alternate Dimensions of El Chico" CD EP.
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".
Spring of 2009 Hamilton releases "TWELVE TONES OF LOVE" on Joyous Shout!.
Presently teaching at New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Program; touring extensively in North America with "Euphoria" group; recording with his "Euphoria" and special guests; composing and performing music for film; working on autobiography.