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Chico Hamilton, RIP

by Seth Colter Walls

Chico Hamilton, RIP

About this playlist

When drummer Chico Hamilton died last week at age 92, the jazz world lost one of its last few living connections to names like Eric Dolphy and Chet Baker, as well as other cool-school and post-bop greats. Hamilton made his mark first as a member of Gerry Mulligan's early-1950s quartet; our playlist features some of that group's best-known tracks, such as "Freeway" (written by Baker) and "Walkin' Shoes." Early in his career, Hamilton also gained notoriety for his contribution of jazz themes to the film Sweet Smell of Success (see "Cheek to Chico").

Later in the 1950s, Hamilton led his own cool-inspired groups, occasionally featuring strings and often featuring young alto-sax firebrand Eric Dolphy. The latter was not yet the fully avant-garde explorer he would become in the 1960s (when he played with John Coltrane and Charles Mingus), but his inimitable sound is still in evidence on tracks like "Miss Movement" and a Hamilton-led take of the Ellington tune "In a Sentimental Mood."

Subsequent Hamilton albums continued the drummer's tradition of building great bands. Passin' Thru featured saxophonist Charles Lloyd, while Hamilton's 1966 album, The Dealer, presented some fusion-y accents (as well as Archie Shepp playing piano on his own composition "For Mods Only"). Cuts from these albums -- as well as "Chico's Chiquittas," Hamilton's immortal contribution to the Newport festival documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day -- each contribute to our memorial playlist.

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