I write this post on a sad note. This week we lost the great Chico Hamilton. His life was as broad as his sound. The quality of his music was only rivaled by his personality. Spending time with Chico was a kick. Through one person I could jam with Duke Ellington as a high school student, create a new sound with Gerry Mulligan, write film scores and discover the new talent Eric Dolphy– through Chico it felt like zero degrees of separation from it all.
When remembering Chico, there is way too much to cover in this space but this will give you some sense of the man I am privileged to have known.
“I Create a space and expect them to fill it”
I was hanging in Chico’s apartment during a photo shoot for his Believe album. I asked him how he managed so many great artists in his band over the years—Dexter Gordon,
Ron Carter, Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Jim Hall, Gabor Szabo, Larry Coryell and Eric Person to name a few.
His answer was simple. “Look man, I create a space for people to fill and I expect them to fill it, you dig. If they do, the sky’s the limit. Think of Eric (Dolphy), he wrote two albums of mine because he was growing.” Nough said.
This idea is an ongoing philosophy of mine for my life, my employees and partners. I think of the ideal creative firm as a jazz group that improvises and shares ideas that each members picks up and grows. Soloists within a unit. You demonstrate you can do it, go man go!
“You are the Circus”
I once asked Chico how he did it. How did he create such a vast volume of albums and sounds over so many years? How did he grow and adapt? His answer speaks volumes.
“Man, you remember when you were a kid and your parents took you to the circus. You think its the greatest thing you ever saw. Well, if your lucky in life, you realize you are the circus.”
Everyday I am reminded that we are all crazy. Once you accept it, you can just roll.
“Shit yeah, shit yeah!”
I knew Chico had a production company, so I asked him about the audio-brand he created for Cadillac. Following is my best recollection.
“Man, they gave me a Cadillac and told me to drive around in it and see what sounds come to mind.” I asked how he came up with the “ci cha chi cha chi cha,” sound—an audio brand that represented Cadillac for decades. Chico’s reply, “man, that was easy, I’m driving a Cadillac, Shit Yeah!, Shit Yeah!, Shit Yeah!”
My life lesson: Go with your gut. Originality is simply a fresh pair of eyes!