Continuing in his quarter-century tenure with Concord Records, Scott Hamilton is still finding fresh concepts for presenting his pre-bop tenor sax sound that went against the grain of the fusion groups when he first started recording. Taking his cue from masters like Ben Webster or Don Byas, rather than Wayne Shorter, Hamilton continued their pioneering tradition of the tenor sax as a voice-like instrument with universal emotional appeal.
Hamilton pays tribute to those originators, who merged melodic urgency with emotional content, as well as to others who had the same effect in extending the vocabulary of jazz within boundaries accepted by the general public. His concept on Jazz Signatures is a simple one: recognizing through his own style the jazz artists who left their own mark on the genre, unobtrusively and yet indelibly.
His choices are sometimes telling.
Don Byas in particular is an insightful choice, Byas’ work inspiring other tenor players, even as he faded from public recognition after his move to Europe. Playing “Byas A Drink” with a light Latin-tinged approach, Hamilton stresses the richness of tone combined with the appeal of the improvisational lines. In addition, Hamilton goes against convention by recognizing Illinois Jacquet with a slower, evocative "You Left Me All Alone,” instead of the “signature” number, “Flying Home.”
Pianists are included in Hamilton’s signatures as well, particularly Fats Waller, whose “Jitterbug Waltz” breezes along more aggressively and perhaps less unctuously than one would expect from the saxophonist. Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” proceeds with a light swing, Hamilton’s long tones stretching the phrasing from one chorus into the next as he lightly bends notes and adds swelling dynamics to a single note, similar to Stan Getz’s approach. And Billy Strayhorn is counted among the pianists. Hamilton animates “Raincheck” with an effortless and mature interpretation that has no need at all for gimmickry. Hank Jones’ “Angel Face” is more delicate, Hamilton’s full sound stressing the logic of its harmonic development, the meandering theme eventually weaving into a satisfying conclusion.
But then the last track honors a pianist important to Hamilton’s career, John Bunch, who accompanies him throughout the album. The person who introduced Hamilton to Benny Goodman in the 1970’s, and who thus helped launch Hamilton’s career, Bunch has stayed in touch with the saxophonist through the years. Their relationship continues, as shown on Jazz Signatures, which they recorded last year in Wimbleton, England after a gig at London’s Pizza Express (where, by the way, Mose Allsoin recorded The Mose Chronicles, Vol. One. “John’s Bunch,” however, ends the project on a high note, its shuffle rhythm propelling the quartet into its controlled frenzy and then dramatically closing the CD with rolling chords, trills, growls and a blue note.
Track Listing: Raincheck, In Your Own Sweet Way, Jitterbug Waltz, If You Could See Me Now, Move, Byas A Drink, You Left Me All Alone, When Lights Are Low, Angel Face, John
Personnel: Scott Hamilton, tenor sax; John Bunch, piano; Dave Green, bass; Steve Brown, drums
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.