I read in the paper today that Chico Hamilton died, aged 93...time is flying... I always looked forward to seeing him when he appeared at Birdland when I was working there. At that time, (roughly 1959-60) Basie, Sarah Vaughn and Chico would draw the biggest crowds.
Basie and Gil Evans bands would draw the most musicians, because they
were such genius arrangers...EVERY musician wanted to be in Basie's
Band...but it wasn't easy...he ran a tight ship, and would punish his
musicians for a infringement of his rules by not allowing them to do
solos for awhile. Some of Basie's rules...NEVER get on that bandstand with a wrinkled
shirt...hair not properly combed, and NEVER arrive drunk or stoned.
(Although rumor has it that the wadded up handkerchief on Basie's piano,
which he'd use to wipe his nose now and then, was laced with cocaine.)
Back to Chico...he had such an unusual sound....at that time he
had a 5 piece band...and would introduce them at the end of each
set...and my favorite was.."and here's our cello player Nate Gershman
from the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra."
Who in Jazz was using a cello?
According to Wikipedia, his music was described as "chamber jazz". Good call.
Chico was a well built, sexy, handsome man...and when he would play his drum solo, (sitting in FRONT of his musicians), he would close his eyes...and play, and play...then pop them open, staring at some beauty in the front row, and you'd hear a
"ooooh!" from the lady. It was a game he played every night...women loved him.
I ran into him several times at our mutual butcher, a block from my digs on 48th Street...we'd chat over the pork chops, usually about musicians who had died...strange. But this was the era of heroin overdoses....
I miss those days more than I can say.....