Seasoned Jazz Drummer Brings Performance, Instruction

MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence, Jeff Hamilton.

Also know as “The Hammer,” Jeff Hamilton’s persona on the drums is 180-degress from his teaching style. The weeklong residency made possible by the MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence endowment brought the booming talent yet soft-spoken expertise of Hamilton to stops at MSU and high schools across Michigan from April 7 through 12, 2014.

Drumming since age 8, Hamilton grew up listening to his parents’ big band records and calls himself a musician more often than he does a drummer. “You orchestrate from the drums,” says Hamilton. “You have to listen to other musicians in the band and play music with them, not at them.”

Rodney Whitaker, director of jazz studies at MSU, brought Hamilton to MSU to help students take their music to another level. “Jeff was absolutely amazing with the students, it was great to watch him perform and teach,” says Whitaker. “As an artist and an educator, it’s our job to influence students in a positive way, and Jeff brought incredible sensibility and inspiration, a great combination.” 

After engaging with students on campus, the artist-in-residency tour took to the road and made high school stops in East Lansing, Cheboygan, and Whitaker’s alma mater, Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit.

“I really enjoyed working with these students, says Hamilton. “I like to encourage them to simply stick with it, and if they work really hard, it will all come together.” And, it all did come together. On April 12, Jeff Hamilton, the Bebop Spartans, the MSU Professors of Jazz, and winner of the “Essentially Ellington” high school jazz band competition all performed at the Jazz Spectacular’s Wrap-up Concert at the Fairchild Theatre.

Jeff Hamilton has performed with Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney, and Monty Alexander. The Los Angeles Jazz Society named Hamilton and his musical partner, John Clayton, musicians of the year for 2006. Hamilton is currently touring with his own trio, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and Diana Krall. In addition to his many recordings with Ray Brown, he has been on nearly 200 recordings with artists such as Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Milt Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme, John Pizzarelli, Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin, George Shearing, and many others. As well as recording and performing throughout the world, he also teaches, arranges, and composes.

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