Chico Hamilton, a drummer and bandleader who helped put California on the jazz map in the 1950s and remained active into the 21st century, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 92.
His death was announced by April Thibeault, his publicist.
Never among the flashiest or most muscular of jazz drummers, Mr. Hamilton had a subtle and melodic approach that made him ideally suited for the refined, understated style that came to be known as cool jazz, of which his hometown, Los Angeles, was the epicenter.
He was a charter member of the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s quartet, which helped lay the groundwork for the cool movement. 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 flutist, Buddy Collette, also played alto saxophone — the Chico Hamilton Quintet became one of the most popular groups in jazz. (The cellist in that group, Fred Katz, died in September.)
The group was a mainstay of the nightclub and jazz festival circuit and even appeared in movies. It was prominently featured in the 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success,” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. (One character in that movie, a guitarist played by Martin Milner, was a member of the on-screen Hamilton group, miming to the playing of the quintet’s longtime guitarist Jim Hall.) And it was seen in “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” Bert Stern’s acclaimed documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.