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Album Review

Scott Hamilton and Duke Robillard: Swingin' Again

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Scott Hamilton and Duke Robillard: Swingin' Again
In 1987, Duke Robillard released the album Swing (Rounder), a successful combination of jazz and jump blues. He got his old friend, tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton to help him out with the recording. Although Robillard is primarily known as a blues guitarist, the record made it obvious that jazz is also deeply rooted in his musical DNA. With Swingin' Again, he revisits the jazz world, and he once again teams up with Hamilton to help him out.

Robillard and Hamilton became friends when they were still youngsters growing up in Rhode Island. Like many other musicians, they both had extensive music collections and would frequently get together to jam and listen to records. Unlike many of their peers, however, they weren't listening to much popular music of the day, but rather checking out recordings by jazz and blues players from the 1940s and 1950s. This helped them both develop styles deeply rooted in music from this period.

While Hamilton left Rhode Island in the mid 1970s pursue a career in jazz, Robillard made a name for himself as one of the premiere blues guitarists. He was a founding member of Roomful of Blues and has since established an impressive solo career with his group, The Pleasure Kings. He also spent a few years playing guitar for The Fabulous Thunderbirds. But Robillard hasn't limited himself to blues alone, and when it comes to jazz, he can swing with the best. Along with his own work, he's also released jazz records with the New Guitar Summit (featuring Gary Beaudoin and Jay Geils) along with making two impressive albums with jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis.

In the meantime, Hamilton has been keeping the classic tenor tradition alive. Although he broke into the jazz scene in the 1970s, during the height of fusion, Hamilton was intent on maintaining the more traditional styles of players like Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. As Robillard once said, "Of all the musicians I know, Scott is not just the keeper of the flame, but actually the flame itself."

With Swingin' Again, Hamilton and Robillard rekindle the spirit of classic jazz and jump blues. They are joined by Robillard's band, featuring Bruce Bears on piano, Brad Hallen on bass and Mark Teixeira on drums along with guest artists, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Tim Ray piano, Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals and Sunny Crownover on vocals. The selections included are mostly tried-and-true standards such as "Pennies From Heaven," "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket" and "One-O'Clock Jump." There are also some less common numbers, such as Claude McLin's "Never Mind" and Vernon White's "Steady Daddy," which was popularized by Kay Starr in 1948.

Swingin' Again features a tight-knit group of musicians who obviously enjoy playing together. Everyone is in top form, and the guest musicians help to capture the essence of classic recordings while still sounding modern. The overall chemistry among the musicians creates an enjoyable vibe.

The most appealing aspect of this album, however, is the connection between Robillard and Hamilton. They clearly have the type of friendship where they can pick up a conversation where they left off, even if they haven't seen each other in a long time. Although a good deal of time has passed, Swingin' Again seems to recapture the excitement they had playing records and jamming together in Rhode Island. This time, however, the audience is invited to the session. It's almost like listening to some old 78 RPM records, just without any of the pops and scratches.

Track Listing

I Never Knew; I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket; Never Mind; Steady Daddy; All I Do Is Dream Of You; Blue Lou; Pennies From Heaven; You Can Depend On Me; Esquire Bounce; One O'Clock Jump

Personnel

Scott Hamilton: saxophone, tenor; Duke Robillard: guitar, electric; Bruce Bears: piano; Mark Teixeira: drums; Jon-Erik Kellso: trumpet; Brad Hallen : bass, acoustic; Tim Ray: piano; Sugar Ray Norcia: voice / vocals; Sunny Crownover: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Swingin' Again | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Blue Duchess

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