The Best Things Happen' when you listen to Jeff Hamilton. He's universally acknowledged as one of the greatest drummers in jazz, whether he's swinging the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra or waking up a famous ghost band by sitting inI witnessed that once, and the before/after difference was stunning. Unmatched for chops, ears, and flair, Hamilton has led his own trio for nine years. Previously with the superb Larry Fuller and maestro Lynn Seaton, it now contains players who all live in the same city. Pianist Tamir Hendelman's Eastman composition degree shows in his imaginative arrangements, and bassist Christoph Luty has a fat sound and unerring sense of melody. Together they balance, challenge, and support each other wonderfully, fulfilling Hamilton's mandate that a trio should consist of three equal parts.
But enough with the background. From the irresistible swing of its first track, "I Love Being Here with You," this CD is a first-class ticket to musical fulfillment. The journey includes new twists on old favoritesfor example, "Poinciana," while explicitly honoring the historic Ahmad Jamal version, lifts and lightens its familiar beat. Luty's innovative arrangement gives "C Jam Blues" a langorous morning-after feel, all slow and stretchy. The spirit of Oscar P. hovers happily over Hendelmancheck out his precise parallel octaves on the closing burner, Hoagy Carmichael's "L'il Old Lady." Hendelman also provides an intriguing new setup to the quietly lustrous "Skylark," and he wrote the jubilant "Bennissimo" in tribute to pianist Benny Green, who trio-ed with Ray Brown and Hamilton in the early '90s.
As for the leader' while he's long-celebrated as a fully frontal player, Hamilton's brushwork is exceptionally elegant and judicious. You can hear this most clearly on Larry Golding's lovely "Moonbird" and the graceful "We'll Be Together Again," where his contribution is both crucial and nearly subliminal. All told, this CD is a fabulous ride, and highly recommended.
Track Listing: I Love Being Here with You, I Concentrate on You, We'll Be Together Again, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Like a Lover, Poinciana, Bennissimo, The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, Skylark, Moonbird, C Jam Blues, L'il Old Lady
Personnel: Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano), Christoph Luty (bass)
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.