Jeff Hamilton Trio: Great American Songs Through the Years

Jack Bowers By

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Jeff Hamilton, by any measure one of the more tasteful and talented jazz drummers on the scene, has kept his working trio (Tamir Hendelman, piano; Christoph Luty, bass) together for more than a decade. There's a good reason for that: Hendelman and Luty are kindred souls, and as accomplished in their own way as Hamilton is in his. Collectively, they form an inspired and seamless unit that makes every note and phrase seem deceptively credible and polished, as is the case on Great American Songs Through the Years, an album that lends new meaning to the expression "easy listening."

Laying aside for a moment the idea that the album's title covers a wide territorial range and may warrant some sort of qualifier (Some Great American Songs, Several Great American Songs, A Number Of Great American Songs?), there's no doubt that Hamilton's trio has dipped into its expansive stockpile and come up with ten clear-cut prize-winners from among the many Great American Songs ever written, nor that each of them is given the sort of tender loving care that is guaranteed to enhance even further their natural brilliance and charm.

The songs, of course, are well-known and time-honored, as are the various composers (a shame they aren't listed on the album's jacket, which also omits any liner notes). The tunesmiths include Rodgers and Hart (three songs), the Gershwin brothers (two), Jimmy van Heusen (two more, with lyrics by Johnny Burke and Johnny Mercer) and the Hollywood team of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. Most are from Tin Pan Alley's golden age of the '20s and '30s; the most recent, from 1946, is "Tenderly." The Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me" was published in 1926, Rodgers and Hart's "Thou Swell" in 1927, "You Took Advantage of Me" in '28, as was the Gershwins' "How Long Has This Been Going On." The '30s produced "Falling in Love with Love," "I Thought About You" and "All or Nothing at All," the '40s "Tenderly," "The More I See You" and "It Could Happen to You."

As would be expected, Hendelman is the melodic fulcrum, and carries out that assignment with assurance and panache. Hamilton and Luty have their moments too, with Luty making good use of the Arco on "The More I See You" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" while fingering clever introductions to that song and "I Thought About You" and conveying the melody on "You Took Advantage of Me." Hamilton, a master with brushes as well as sticks, adds forceful statements on "Falling in Love with Love," "The More I See You," "You Took Advantage of Me" and launches "It Could Happen to You" on brushes. Five stars for the trio, another five for those Great American Songs.

A footnote: This is a limited-edition CD (2,500 copies), available only from the Capri Records website or from amazon.com

Track Listing: Falling in Love with Love; Tenderly; The More I See You; It Could Happen to You; Someone to Watch Over Me; Thou Swell; You Took Advantage of Me; I Thought About You; All or Nothing at All; How Long Has This Been Going On.

Personnel: Tamir Hendelman: piano; Christoph Luty: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums.

Title: Great American Songs Through the Years | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Capri Records

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