LaMonte Hamilton: In Memoriam
Friday, 10 February 2006 05:22
By J.P. Lutcher & John Sinclair
LaMonte Robert Hamilton, a distinguished jazz saxophonist, passed away at Grace Hospital Friday, September 21, 1990. The saxophonist died of heart failure in the hospital bed to which he had been confined for the past 10 days.
Mr. Hamilton was born in Detroit on February 1, 1923, to a musical family. His mother played violin; his father was a saxophonist and pianist; a sister played piano. He attended McMichael School and Northwestern High School, where he was a classmate of such Detroit jazz notables as bassist James 'Beans' Richardson; Hamilton's "main man," saxophonist John 'Moon' Mullins; and drummer Lawrence 'Jacktown' Jackson. He attended West Virginia State College in Charleston, W.Va.
During his long and illustrious career, Mr. Hamilton worked with some of the greatest names in jazz, including a wartime stint with the Jay McShann Orchestra. He performed with Wardell Gray, Gene Ammons, Ray Charles, the King Kolax Orchestra, Barry Harris, Roy Brooks and countless others.
After a period of relative obscurity, LaMonte emerged as a major musical force on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1970s, contributing his remarkable saxophonics to the Marcus Belgrave Quintet. Mr. Hamilton was also a featured soloist with the New Detroit Jazz Ensemble; David Swain's Il-V-I Orchestra; a specially- assembled 'Kansas City 7' featuring Jay McShann, Candy Johnson, Marcus Belgrave and Jimmy Wilkins at Orchestra Hall; and with the Paradise Theatre Orchestra, a 12-piece band organized by the Detroit Jazz Center for Detroit Jazz Artists On Tour in 1979. In recent years he continued to perform with the Il-V-I Orchestra and was a featured soloist with the Graystone Jazz Museum Orchestra.
LaMonte had a great concern for the future of the music and spent many hours working with talented young musicians at the Jazz Development Workshop and in school workshops throughout the area.
Hamilton, known among his jazz peers as 'Larch,' was an immensely talented tenor saxophonist whose fluent, expressive, deeply swinging approach to the music left a lasting impression on fellow musicians and knowledgeable listeners wherever he played.
Close friend and jazz historian Willie Bolar perhaps best sums up the saxophonist with his verse, Reflections on 'Larch':
LaMonte, my Mentor from early on,
He & Moon had a certain style all their own.
Some in the neighborhood thought they were real gone
They both went on to high fame and acclaim
But playing their saxes was their favorite thing.
LaMonte had no regrets for things of the past
And a thriving, driving inspiration for the day.
He was grateful that his contributions
Were now accepted for pay--
Not necessarily monetary, but by
His peers of today.
He will be missed it's true
But Larch would probably say:
'I'm out of here--
It's up to you!'
LaMonte's memory was honored at a memorial service September 27th at Stinson Funeral Home on Meyers, where a musical offering was made by Marcus Belgrave, Herbie Williams, Earl Van Riper, Lawrence Williams, Charlie Gabriel and many others who had gathered to send off their beloved brother in the traditional manner.
Mr. Hamilton is survived by his wife, Ruth; one sister, Mrs. Evlalia Wilson; and several nieces and nephews. He is interred in Detroit Memorial Park.
(c) 1990, 2006 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.