The Late Chico Hamilton’s Clearwater Beach Home Demolished


Jazz musician Chico Hamilton’s home in the Clearwater Beach section of Springs was demolished on Tuesday, November 21, nearly four years after he died at age 92.

East Hampton Town is purchasing the 0.81-acre property from the Hamilton Family Trust for $900,000 using the Community Preservation Fund. According to a public hearing notice, the property will be preserved as open space, and the seller is responsible to remove the existing structures.

While the house itself at 142 Waterhole Road is not considered to have historic significance, it had for many years contained memorabilia that detailed one of the more successful and enduring careers in American music.

Never among the flashiest or most muscular of jazz drummers, Mr. Hamilton, a Los Angeles native, had a subtle and melodic approach that made him ideally suited for the understated style that came to be known as “cool jazz.” He was a charter member of the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s quartet, which helped lay the groundwork for the cool movement. According to a New York Times tribute, “His own quintet, which he formed shortly after leaving the Mulligan group, came to be regarded as the quintessence of cool. With its quiet intensity, its intricate arrangements and its uniquely pastel instrumentation of flute, guitar, cello, bass and drums,” the Chico Hamilton Quintet “became one of the most popular groups in jazz.”

The group was a mainstay of the nightclub and jazz festival circuit and even appeared in movies, being prominently featured in the 1957 film “The Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. However, by the mid-1960s and with the rise of rock ’n’ roll, cool jazz had fallen out of favor. Mr. Hamilton’s response was to alter the sound and style of his quintet, replacing the cellist with a trombonist and adopting a bluesier, more aggressive approach. He also formed a company that provided music for television shows and commercials, but he continued to perform and record occasionally. By the mid-1970s he was back on the road as a band leader full time. He was never again as big a star as he had been in the 1950s, but he remained active, and his music became increasingly difficult to categorize, incorporating elements of free jazz, jazz-rock fusion, and other styles.

Among the honors Mr. Hamilton received were a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2004 and a Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend Award in 2007. Though showing his age by then, he continued to perform and record, even beyond his 90th birthday. Also in his later years, being able to spend more time at his East Hampton home, he was active at local venues, teaching classes and occasionally performing, including a concert at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor in April 2010.

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