Jimmy Hamilton was for a quarter-century a mainstay of jazz's most important large ensemble, the Duke Ellington Orchestra. On clarinet, Hamilton was a model of polished, cool style and substance, while his less often featured work on tenor saxophone allowed him to reveal funkier inclinations.
Hamilton was hired by Ellington as the replacement for Barney Brigard in 1943, and he stayed on with the Duke until 1968. Prior to joining Ellington, he had worked with Lucky Millinder, Jimmy Mundy, and most noticeably Teddy Wilson's sextet (1940-1942) and Eddie Heywood; Hamilton also recorded “Gloomy Sunday” with Billie Holiday. While he was featured primarily as a clarinetist, where he employed a cool smooth tone, he sometimes turned to the tenor on which he was a little rougher and raucous.