Even though the Swing Era vanished long ago into the mists of time, likely never to return, it continues to have its champions, especially on the tenor saxophone: masters such as Harry Allen
, Ken Peplowski
, Grant Stewart
, Cory Weeds
(who owns the Cellar Live label and produced this splendid album) and last but by no means least, the smooth-as-velvet and always-unflappable Scott Hamilton
whose trio was recorded in July 2017 at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver, B.C., during that city's annual International Jazz Festival.
Although Hamilton, who has a sharp and felicitous phrase for every occasion, is the nominal leader, the other members of the trio are no less eloquent and indispensable. Pianist Rossano Sportiello
is a steadfast accompanist and always engaging soloist, while bassist J.J.Shakur
is so rhythmically strong and sure that one scarcely notices the absence of a drummer. In fact, Hamilton and Sportiello, who had recorded previously as a duo, agreed beforehand that the only bassist they would welcome to make it a trio was Shakur. Good choice.
Shakur is showcased admirably on Luiz Bonfa
's seductive "Black Orpheus" (Manha de Carnaval), Sportiello on the seldom-heard Eddie Delange charmer, "Just as Though You Were Here." Elsewhere it's trio all the way on the standards "Tangerine," "Three Little Words," "Darn That Dream" and "You Do Something to Me," James P. Johnson's bluesy "Old Fashioned Love" and a trio of sunlit themes from Italy: "Estate," "Torna a Surriento" (Come Back to Sorrento) and "Nel Blu di Pinto di Blu" (a.k.a. Volare). Through them all, the trio is as snug and inseparable as those axiomatic peas in a pod.
The word "sunlit" is especially true of "Nel Blu," ushered in by Sportiello's breezy piano and underscored by Hamilton's expressive tenor. Sportiello's solo is radiant, as is the case in every scenario, starting with the well-known (and well- chosen) "Tangerine," as lovely and pleasing an opener as anyone could wish for. In fact, the trio's choice of material is superior from start to finish, making a summary of highlights redundant, as every number is worthy of that endorsement. Shortcomings? To state the case as clearly as possible, there are none. In other words, a blue-chip concert performance that sets the bar high for every trio with a similar point of view.
Tangerine; Estate; Three Little Words; Darn That Dream; You Do Something to Me; Black Orpheus; Just as Though You Were Here; Old Fashioned Love; Torna a Surriento; Nel Blu di Pinto di Blue.
Scott Hamilton: tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello: piano; J.J. Shakur: bass.