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Jeff Hamilton Trio: Red Sparkle

Dan Bilawsky By

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When it comes to touch, taste, and a deep understanding of what makes a band swing, drummer Jeff Hamilton has no peers. Hamilton's recordings with everybody from Diana Krall and Rosemary Clooney to his own co-led Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra have marked him as a paragon of class and groove, and his place as the defining brush player of his generation was cemented long ago, but his legacy in jazz may ultimately be related to his trio work.

Hamilton, along with best buddy/bassist John Clayton, turned heads early in his career as part of pianist Monty Alexander's trio, and his long stint with bassist Ray Brown's group helped to create some of the finest trio documents put down on record in the late '80s and early '90s. Hamilton ultimately left Brown's employ to focus on building a magical trio of his own, and his current outfit fits the bill. Pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty have been working with Hamilton for the past decade, and such earlier recordings as The Best Things Happen (Azica, 2004) and Symbiosis (Capri, 2009) serve as evidence of their compatibility. Red Sparkle, the trio's sophomore effort for the Capri label, speaks further of the connection these three musicians have forged, as their ensemble artistry seems to deepen over time and age like fine wine.

While Hamilton references Brown—directly through a performance of the bassist's "I Know You So Well" that has Luty brandishing a bow, and indirectly through jubilant or bluesy originals like the drummer's nod to the dearly departed trumpeter Snooky Young on "Ain't That A Peach" and Luty's tribute to Duke Ellington, "In An Ellingtone"—this trio moves beyond the musical scope of the late bassist's band. Hamilton re-imagines Thelonious Monk's "Bye Ya" as a tropically tinged Brazilian number, brings all kinds of hits, stops and solo breaks into "Too Marvelous For Words," highlights Hendelman's lush piano work and deft touch on "Laura," and burns on the up-tempo title track, which ends with an excitable snare drum solo and shows off a harder-hitting Hamilton than usual.

While it's too early to tell if this group will serve as a template for threesomes of the future, they're making beautiful music in the here-and-now that swings, soothes and leads to plenty of toe-tapping and head-nodding of the enthusiastic approval variety.

Track Listing: Ain't That A Peach; Bye Ya; On and On; Hat's Dance; Too Marvelous For Words; Laura; A Sleepin' Bee; Red Sparkle; I Know You Oh So Well; In An Ellingtone.

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

Title: Red Sparkle | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Capri Records

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