has been waiting to happen for twenty years. Back then, teenager Harry Allen, still in high school, joined Scott Hamilton on stage at the Newport Jazz Festival for a cameo performance with the George Wein-led Newport All-Stars. Allen spent his formative years growing up in Rhode Island, which also claims Hamilton as a native son. And Hamilton certainly was a role model as Allen blossomed thenand fast became a welcome young player on the New York swing jazz scene.
They've had occasional chances to collaborate on the bandstand. And now, Heavy Juice enables them to join a line of great tenor summit session pairings that through the years have included Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon, Ammons and Sonny Stitt, and Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.
This is a splendid session in which two good musical friends mine common musical ground with very similar sounds. Both favor a breathy, growling Webster tone at times. These days, Allen comes more out of a Stan Getz melodic bag, which Hamilton explored in an earlier phase. At times, when they're playing in unison or locked into the same tone, it helps to know that Hamilton is on the left stereo channel, Allen on the right.
The crack rhythm section provides a strong cushion, with John Bunch's dancing hands providing some elegant twists and turns at the piano. Nothing here disappoints, but their bop-meets-R&B take on "Blues Up and Down" by Ammons and Stitt ranks as my clear favorite. It's filled with an exuberant spirit of one-upmanship until they blend together for the final shout chorus. In contrast, the Duke Ellington ballad "Warm Valley" enables them to share a Websterish blend. From start to finish, through all eight tracks, this blend of Heavy Juice is very, very good.
Personnel: Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; John Bunch, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Chuck Riggs, drums.