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Harry Allen / Scott Hamilton: ‘Round Midnight

Edward Blanco By

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Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton are two veteran tenor saxophonists whose individual careers have not prevented them from maintaining a friendship or performing together whenever possible. Their third joint project, Round Midnight presents new interpretations of nine standards in a quintet format offering far more solos than normally found in a group featuring one main artist. Their pairing is reminiscent of the great tenor team of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and builds on the foundation of other such bands from the past like that of the Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt and the Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin quintets.

Leading off with the 1912 composition "My Melancholy Baby," the two tenors establish themselves with predictable smooth play, ably engaged by a superb rhythm section that prominently features pianist Rossano Sportiello. Allen's "Great Scott," whether a tribute to Hamilton or not, is certainly the disc's first lively spot, offering plenty of saxophone fireworks as well as steady and solid backup from drummer Chuck Riggs. "The Opener" begins with a terrific saxophone harmony and features bassist Joel Forbes's solid ,heavy chords.

The centerpiece of the album, the great bossa nova standard "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," provides both saxophonists solo opportunities that turn out to be the recording's highlight. After discussing their wish to perform "Lockjaw" Davis' "Hey Lock" for years, the duo finally records it here as an enjoyable mid-tempo romp. Rodgers and Hart's "Lover" and Neal Hefti's "Flight of the Foo Birds" definitely lend some bopping moments to the date.

The two saxophonists cap off what is, in general, an invigorating session of jazz with pianist Thelonious Monk' oft-recorded title track, closing a session of invigorating music with one last tender moment. On Round Midnight, this dynamic duo leads a very vibrant group in performing its best impressions of the twin-tenor quintets of years past, successfully adding Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton to that prestigious list of jazz ensembles.

Track Listing: My Melancholy Baby; Great Scott; How Am I To Know; The Opener; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Hey Lock; Lover; Flight Of The Foo Birds; 'Round Midnight.

Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Scott Hamilton: tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello: piano; Joel Forbes: bass; Chuck Riggs: drums.

Title: ‘Round Midnight | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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