06/04/12

Saxophonist Andy Hamilton Dies at 94

Jamaican-born musician maintained a U.K. club residency from 1949 until this year

Andy Hamilton, a Jamaican-born saxophonist who moved to Birmingham, England in 1949 and formed the group the Blue Notes, died June 3. The cause and place of death were not reported.

Made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth in 2008, Hamilton was born in Jamaica in 1918, where at age 10 he began playing a homemade saxophone made from bamboo stalks. He left Jamaica for the U.S. and began playing jazz in New York while holding odd jobs, then returned to Jamaica in the 1940s. There he became music manager at a hotel owned by actor Errol Flynn but in 1949 he moved to Birmingham, residing in the U.K. for the remainder of his life.

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Nick Gold and Andy Hamilton
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Andy Hamilton

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He formed the Blue Notes with fellow Jamaican Sam Brown and established a residency at Birmingham’s Bearwood Corks Club, where he performed until earlier this year. He also performed at the city’s Symphony Hall.

Hamilton did not record until age 72, when his Silvershine became the best-selling U.K. jazz album of 1991—five years after recovering from a diabetic coma. He was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts degree by Birmingham University in 1996, and received a Millennium Fellowship for his work in community education in 1999, according to various published obituaries.

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