Chico Hamilton on his first gig with Duke Ellington
Now, A Jazz Moment...
MUSIC: "Jumpin' Pumpkins," CD: Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, Take the "A Train, VJC 1003-2 (cut 14)
NEA Jazz Master Chico Hamilton first realized he wanted to be a drummer at age eight when his mother took him to the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles to hear the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Chico Hamilton: Duke set the band up in a pyramid. And at the top of the pyramid was Sonny Greer, the drummer. And to quote myself in my book that I haven't written, Man he had more drums than a drum store! (laughs) But he played on everything. He was the first percussionist, he wasn't just a drummer. Everything he touched was musical, was a sound. And I saw this and heard this when I was eight years old.
MUSIC: up and fades under
Eight years later, when Ellington's drummer Sonny Greer injured himself on the bandstand, Ellington asked Chico to step in.
Chico Hamilton: We came in thru the back way, you know, the stage entrance, and opened the door and band was playin. Man, they were swingin so hard. The band was just playin its ass off! (laughs) I tell ya, the "A Train" had just come out (sings a bar) And I sat down and picked up the brushes and started brushing. And Jimmy Blanton who was way down there all of a sudden looked up at me and smiled, you know?!
MUSIC: "Take the A Train," CD: Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, Take the "A" Train, VJC 1003-2 (cut 6)
...NEA Jazz Master Chico Hamilton recalling his first gig at age 16 with the great Ellington Orchestra. This Jazz Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts