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Jimmy Hamilton

aldevis

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Following a thread about clarinets, I had one of my frequent crushes on Jimmy Hamilton's clarinet playing.

I contacted Ruben Greenberg*, that owns Hamilton's Leblanc (LL) and he kindly authorized me to publish part of his reply on cafesaxophone.
[edits]
"
[...] The YouTube excerpt that you sent me [
View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUWniWj4Pdk
] was filmed at exactly the time I became close to Jimmy Hamilton. I was a teenager in San Francisco working at the Olympic Hotel; the Hotel the Ellington orchestra would always stay in. Jimmy and I became very close. "Never on a Sunday", which you have sent me, was an arrangement by Jimmy Hamilton; a commercial pop song then in vogue, which they would play at dances, but transformed by the Jimmy Hamilton arrangement which is so full of life and so witty. Sam Woodyard, Jimmy and Lawrence Brown sound great in it.
Jimmy Hamilton played a Leblanc LL clarinet which is now in my possession and which I have owned for 46 years. He played it for about 10 years. As for his mouthpiece; it was a standard, stock Leblanc mouthpiece of that time; probably an L4 (not a bad mouthpiece at all!) close in facing to a Vandoren 45. One of the secrets of his wondrous tone was his absolute relaxation; he was totally loose when he played and had an incredibly elegant style. He was Classsically trained; a student of the famous teacher Leon Russianoff who also taught Stanley Drucker of the New York Philharmonic. I played Debussy's" Première Rhapsodie" to Jimmy Hamilton, and we worked on it together. In those days, there was no question of an African-American being admitted into an American Symphony Orchestra.
On tenor, his style was diametrically opposed to what he did on the clarinet; raucous and bluesy; strongly influenced by Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. In this respect, he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
Few arrangers were permitted by the Duke to contrbute something to his "book"; to use the jargon of the times. There was Billy Strayhorn, of course. There was Gerald Wilson. And there was Jimmy Hamilton. My favourite Jimmy Hamilton contribution is "Tenderly" on the "Ellington Indigos" Album. He plays so sadly and beautifully, and it is his arrangement with a marvellous Ellington accompaniment on the piano of incredible harmonic richness.
Jimmy wrote some compositions for clarinet quartet-three B-flat clarinets and bass clarinet-which I played with him, Russel Procope and Harry Carney. They were never published [...] To answer your question, he did record away from the Ellington band several times. One recording is with him and an arrangement for 6 euphoniums-great stuff. [...] Nevertheless, his best work was with Ellington.
"

* Ruben Greenberg is the author of "Melodic finger twisters for clarinet".
Coincidentally the book that the great Tony Coe recommended me to put my pinkies in place, on clarinet.
I recommend it to all saxophone players that decide to start on clarinet.
 
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aldevis

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As you can guess I am really excited by this.
Hamilton's sound is beautiful, and every doubler knows how hard it can be to adapt the embouchure to the two instruments.

What is surprising, is the "classical" sound he achieved with a relaxed embouchure. It means it can be done.
I took a Leblanc mouthpiece that was rolling in a drawer (even if I know it is not the point), put on "The Far East Suite" and started noodling with the first reed that played half decently.

It is interesting how, with a mouthpiece I am not used to, I could shape the sound trying to imitate Hamilton.
In particular across the break.
An exercise worth doing more often.
 
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Jamesmac

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I have enjoyed a rendition of Lover man played by jimmy Hamilton for many years, I didn't know at the time the name of the clarinetist, as it was just the big band that was named . A friend Harry Klein informed me. ( Alto/Bari Sax) but well worth a listen.
I think the Big Band was Count Basie. But I stand corrected.
PS. A live recording
 

aldevis

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When Humphrey Lyttleton band and Duke Ellington orchestra toured together (wish I was there) Tony Coe tried to talk to Hamilton about his clarinet. "I am a tenor player!" was Hamilton's reply.
 
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Jimmy is probably my favourite clarinet player. Love his tone. Very fluid.

I like Irving Fazola and Artie Shaw of course. Currently listening to Edmond Hall who did some tasty stuff.
 

Jamesmac

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I haven't heard a lot of jimmy Hamilton, but Artie and Tony Coe IMO have the better Clarinet sound. Along with Pete Fountain. All Jewish as it happens, I think I'll need to get the operation. LOL.
 
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There's an Avid set of Edmond Hall which I like a lot.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Classic-Alb...F8&qid=1390169255&sr=8-1&keywords=edmond+hall
The Bob Crosby band had some great players including Fazola. Some of the arrangements feature a bit of a clarinet section with players like Matty Matlock.

For Hamilton I'd go for Swing Low sweet Clarinet http://www.amazon.co.uk/Swing-Sweet...90169886&sr=8-3-spell&keywords=jimmy+halilton
And say to avoid the Live at the Buccaneer set.
I'm told Jimmy won a lottery or some such prize and went to live in the sun where he played a few shows, but his playing sound a bit more like a good amateur not the pro that played with Ellington.
 

visionari1

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I recently found Jimmy Hamilton playing Sax on "The Shadow Of your Smile" on Spotify when researching versions .... a very distincitve first minute (it's stunning) intro to this tune has got me interested in him, however haven't been able to find anything similar to that intro.
Cheers
Jimu
 
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That's probably from the 'Live at the Buccaneer' set. As one of Ellington's men he didn't get to play sax much. General opinions on his sax playing seem to be that he was not as good at it as his clarinet playing.
 

Jamesmac

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M
That's probably from the 'Live at the Buccaneer' set. As one of Ellington's men he didn't get to play sax much. General opinions on his sax playing seem to be that he was not as good at it as his clarinet playing.
Must have had a mark X1>:)
 

aldevis

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Some great tenor playing on "Blues in orbit".
On the other hand, sitting near Paul Gonsalves does not help to become famous as a tenor player...
 

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