This disc was recorded in a hurry. Wolfgang Hirschmann, the legendary recording engineer of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, expressed a wish to record the Jeff Hamilton Trio before his imminent retirement. This meant the group had about two months to come up with a final set list and arrangements in the midst of a packed gigging schedulea challenge these three pros brilliantly met, as the recording demonstrates. And it was clearly worth the rush, since the recording has a wonderfully warm and balanced feel.
It's difficult to identify the high points on this consistently excellent disc, but personal favorites include Luty's witty, bass-centered arrangement of "I've Never Been in Love Before" and Hendelman's classy take on "A Felicidade"the most elegant I've ever heard, as well as a showcase for Hamilton's celebrated hand drumming technique. "Too Close for Comfort" is an irresistible, flat-out burner, and Luty's eloquent bowing sings the luscious melody of "So Many Stars." The group has fun with "Epistrophy," which features a solo by Hamilton and some of the pitch-bending he's famous for, allowing his drum to transcend percussion and become a melodic instrument (see also "Lullaby of the Leaves").
Add some fresh arrangements of old standards like "Moonglow" and "Autumn Nocturne," wrap things up with a swinging original (Hamilton's rousing "2nd Street Samba"), and you have a thoroughly pleasing package, varied and tasteful and expertly played. Trio jazz just doesn't get any better than this.
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.