Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen are two solid and melodic tenor saxophone players who do not get near the press that they deserve. They each possess a sure lyricism, an efficient and conservative approach to solos. Their respective tones are seasoned with equal parts Lester Young, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, and Stan Getz. They are equally adept playing pre-swing, swing, and bop. Scott Hamilton is the elder of the two and the subject of the present discussion, noting the appearance of his new release, Live in London.
Hamilton, an expatriate in England for the past number of years, has recorded just short of 40 recordings since he debuted as a leader, almost all for the same label, California’s Concord Records. Notable among these releases are At Last (with Gene Harris), With Strings, Christmas Love Song, and Blues, Bop, and Ballads. While best known for his ballad prowess, Hamilton is quite a capable blues and swing player.
All of the selections on Live in London are perfectly quaffed mainstream jazz. And that is perfectly all right (for all of you progressive, free-jazz, avant-garde nuts). Well-played mainstream is well played jazz. Hamilton and his quartet open the disc with a sonically swinging take on Tadd Dameron’s bop anthem "The Squirrel." This modern jazz vehicle affords Hamilton, pianist Pierce, and bassist Green acres in which to stroll. Next, Pierce sets up a low-simmer groove on "When Your Lover is Gone," with Hamilton breathing in low register.
The concert was recorded on Easter Sunday, 2002 and Hamilton honors the occasion with a spirited rendition of Irving Berlin’s "Easter Parade." Hamilton and company excel on the ballad "When I Fall in Love." After "When You Wish Upon a Star," the crew tackles the Al Cohn classic "The Goof and I," making its craggy terrain sound easily managed.
Live in London is easily the most enjoyable tenor disc I have heard this year. It was recorded in a small London venue, the Pizza Express Jazz Club, using the time tested arrangement of soloist plus rhythm section. If all politics is local then all of jazz is grassroots.
For more information, see Concord Records .