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Jimmy Hamilton (25 May 1917 – 20 September 1994) was an American jazz clarinetist, tenor saxophonist, arranger, composer, and music educator, best known for his twenty-five years with Duke Ellington.

Hamilton was born in Dillon, South Carolina, and grew up in Philadelphia. Having originally learnt to play piano and brass instruments, in the 1930s he started playing the latter in local bands, before switching to clarinet and saxophone. In 1939 he played with Lucky Millinder, Jimmy Mundy, and Bill Doggett, going on to join the Teddy Wilson sextet in 1940. After two years with Wilson, he played with Eddie Heywood and Yank Porter.

In 1943 he replaced Barney Bigard in the Duke Ellington orchestra, and stayed with Ellington until 1968. His style was very different on his two instruments: on tenor saxophone he had an R&B sound, while on clarinet he was much more precise and correct, though fluent. He wrote some of his own material in his time with Ellington.

After he left the Ellington orchestra Hamilton played and arranged on a freelance basis, before spending the 1970s and 1980s in the Virgin Islands teaching music (though he occasionally returned to the U.S. for performances with John Carter's Clarinet Summit). On his retirement from teaching he continued to perform with his own groups from 1989 to 1990.

Hamilton died in St. Croix, Virgin Islands at the age of seventy-seven.

Discography as leader

  • 1953: "Big Fifty"/"Rockaway Special" (States Records)[1]
  • 1954: Jimmy Hamilton Orchestra (Jazz Kings)
  • 1955: Jimmy Hamilton (Urania)
  • 1960: Swing Low Sweet Clarinet (Everest)
  • 1961: It's About Time (Swingville)
  • 1961: Can't Help Swinging (Prestige)
  • 1985: Rediscovered Live at the Buccaneer (Who's Who in Jazz)
  • 1991: Jimmy Hamilton & the New York Jazz Quintet (Fresh Sound)
  • 1997: Sweet but Hot (Drive Archive)
  • 1999: Jazz in July: at the Lafayette Club (Hambone Records)
  • 1999: Live at the Bucaneer (Jazz Time)


Sources and external links

  • Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestley. Jazz: The Rough Guide. ISBN 1-85828-528-3
  • Richard Cook & Brian Morton. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD 6th edition. ISBN 0-14-051521-6
  • Jimmy Hamilton — brief biography by Scott Yanow, for AllMusic.


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