Sunday 25 July 2021

Forestorn "El Chico" Hamilton (1921–2013)

Written by Tom Csatari

Chico Hamilton’s influence on drummers, composers, arrangers, educators and even jingle writers is uncanny and wide-ranging. Originally a trap-drummer from L.A., “El Chico” cut his teeth playing in pioneering bands with Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and Lena Horn, before moving to New York in the early 50s. Hamilton was an important figure in the founding and development of The New School Jazz, with a knack for treading the line between chamber music, crossover jazz, and the avant garde (his famous Quintet with Jim Hall even appeared in the film The Sweet Smell of Success). 

We’ve created a career-spanning Spotify playlist—tracklist below with some short attempts to describe the music...

1. Lena Horne - "I’ve Got a Right To Sing The Blues"

Just wait for the drums to kick in--softly and sweetly--at around 2:00. Chico got his start in this vocalist-led big band music, as well as the jump blues microgenre. There are a few other examples of his playing in this context, but they’re all quiet--he’s usually linking up with the acoustic guitar, never overplaying. 

2. Jimmy Witherspoon - Six Foot Two Blues

A flat-tire shuffle blues which wouldn’t be anything without Mr. Hamilton’s deep desert beat. 

3. Gerry Mulligan Quartet - Walkin' Shoes

Chico was a huge part of the west coast cool jazz scene, taking part in the first recordings on the Pacific Jazz label with the famed Chet Baker / Gerry Mulligan pianoless quartet. 

4. Lester Young - She's Funny That Way - Remastered 1995

Slow ballad, brush-drum playing with the coolest of cool: Lester Young. 

5. Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Chet Baker - Moonlight In Vermont

Classic west-coast-cool-jazz ballad with one of the first examples of Chico’s mallet playing.

6. The Chico Hamilton Quintet - The Squimp

Ripping casual-classical music. Jim Hall throws it over the edge. The sound of a mid century modern sonic diorama. 

7. The Chico Hamilton Quintet, Buddy Collette - Buddy Boo - Live/1955

Dirty. Filthy McNasty. And still smooth. 

8. Chico Hamilton - The Dealer

A ripping boogaloo with Larry Coryell on guitar and Charles Lloyd on tenor saxophone. Raw. Hip. Mod. Retro futurist “jazz” with a side of droned out blues bliss.

9. Chico Hamilton - El Chico

Gypsy Drone Jazz. 

10. The Chico Hamilton Quintet - El Toro

Chico had that beat that was chilled out but immovable. Rarefied.

11. The Chico Hamilton Quintet - A Rose For Booker

Excursions into a misty unknown of folky jazz experimentalism—the intro and outro bass/guitar/flute/mallet blend is uncanny. 

12. The Chico Hamilton Quintet - Homeward

Nomadish, genre-bending rhythmic music verging mixing groove with avant. 

13. The Chico Hamilton Quintet - Lady Gabor

Couple different time signatures going on at once here: earthen multi-meter with free-time group breaks. Visionary orchestration & arrangement.

14. Chico Hamilton - Denise

1970s commercial crossover “swinganova” drawing on Chico’s work as a studio gem and jingle writer. 

15. Chico Hamilton - Nomad

Long form electro-tribal jams which cannot be quantified. 

In an event sponsored by Blue-in-Green:RADIO, hear Uncivilized, deemed “The Bernie Sanders Jazz Band” by Impose Magazine, and operating “its own fuzzy, folky, big-hearted thing” (New York Times), play El Chico live, delving into its own brand of experimental Americana at Barbès on July 27th in Brooklyn, New York, or stream it on TÉLÉ-BARBÈS at home via YouTube.  The show will also be aired on Blue-in-Green:RADIO in its entirety in August 2021.

Uncivilized Plays El Chico (Feat. Ben Stapp)

Rachel Housle—drums & percussion; Ben Stapp—tuba; Nick Jozwiak—cello; Kevin Sun—tenor sax; and "Uncivilized Tom" Csatari—guitar & effects

Tue, 27 July 2021

08:00PM - 09:30PM (EDT)


376 9th st

Brooklyn, NY 11215

This event is LIVE at Barbes (12 max capacity), and Streaming free online.  

Live stream tickets:

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