Drummer Chico Hamilton has earned some impressive credits during his more than 60-year career. As a young man, he played with Nat "King" Cole, Lena Horne, T. Bone Walker, Dexter Gordon and Billie Holiday. Later he co-led the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, before leading several of his own bands. He has over 50 recordings as leader, and many more as a sideman. Self-taught, Hamilton is a music professor at the New York City New School. This year, he's celebrating his 85th birthday (September 21) by releasing a quartet of jazz albums (a total of 54 tunes). Each loosely themed CD is more than 70 minutes long and filled not only with reworked classics and contemporary covers, but new material as well. Juniflip features Hamilton and members of his band, Euphoria, with guests Jimmy Cheatham and George Bohanon. Believe includes guest Fontella Bass and surprisingly fresh covers of the Who's "The Kids Are Alright" and the post-9/11 anthem "Alive." For 6th Ave. Romp, Hamilton and his friends cover Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. And on Heritage, he mixes his own originals with three Gerald Wilson tunes. While each CD has its own focus, all four releases have the same unique Chico Hamilton cool factor. Why take on such an enormous undertaking at his age? "School was out last summer, I had the time and the music was just flowing."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.