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Scott Hamilton with Strings: Christmas Love Song

Robert Spencer By

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Ah, Scott Hamilton with strings playing Christmas music. I'll get out my red-and-green sweater and we'll decorate the tree with tinsel while this disc plays. We'll sip apple cider with cinnamon sticks and wrap the presents we bought for Mom and Aunt Gertrude. You know, I think when we were in J. C. Penney's today picking out Aunt Gertrude's binoculars, this disc was playing over the PA system.

I write thus not to belittle this disc, only to explain it. There is absolutely nothing new here, but new is not what Scott Hamilton has been about throughout his career, and he thereby maintains an integrity far greater than that of many imitators and bag-carriers who claim to be original voices. Scott Hamilton's tone is perfect for a warm night by the fire, sharing a blanket with one's beloved. The string arrangements by Alan Broadbent, who also plays piano, are tasteful as string arrangements go in this line. Dave Green is also around on bass, Dave Cliff on guitar, and Allan Ganley on drums, but this is Hamilton's show and Hamilton's alone.

On every cut from "The Christmas Song" to "Christmas Love Song," (including "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Little Drummer Boy," "Christmas Waltz," "Winter Wonderland," "Greensleeves," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "White Christmas," and "Bell Carol Blues,") Hamilton shines like a diamond. His tone even shows up the strings for warmth and softness. His statements are impeccably constructed. The diamond simply has no flaws.

This is a prime Christmas jazz recording. "Christmas" comes first because the strings don't leave much room for soloing; Hamilton himself rarely strays from his choice and perfect theme renderings. It's "jazz" because the tenor saxophone is, in most minds, a jazz or blues instrument; this ain't blues, baby, so it must be jazz. If you're looking for Hamilton's chops as an improviser, almost any of his other CD's will be preferable; but for a Christmas album, this is first-rate.


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