12.09. – Happy Birthday !!! In the fourth decade of a jazz career in which he has always made a subtle art sound easy, US saxophonist Scott Hamilton still caresses old standards with the same urbane ecstasy he always has.
In its hip-hop or contemporary-classical borrowings, free-improv extremes or north European minimalist whisperings, jazz is now a very different music to the sleek, swinging one Hamilton absorbed from his dad’s records as a boy. But nobody can accuse Hamilton of living in the past: it would be like telling someone they shouldn’t still be in love with a fascinating old partner.
Hamilton has been making regular visits to Soho’s Pizza Express with locals John Pearce (piano), Dave Green (bass) and Steve Brown (drums). The opening Strike Up the Band developed as the tenorist’s unhurried shuffle of famous swing-sax licks gently morphed into new shapes. The ballad Flamingo glimmered with thoughtful solos from Hamilton, Pearce and Green, and a Zoot Sims blues moved quickly from its perfunctory theme to a stream of fresh melody – percussive and insistent from Pearce, seamlessly purring from Hamilton in a driving duet with Green’s walking bass.
By the time Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz arrived, any hint of reshuffling familiar cards was gone (Hamilton gigs sometimes take a tune or two to shift up through the gears) – the playful song resolved on an unexpectedly gospelly coda, before Phil Woods’ Goodbye Mr Evans showcased the leader as one of jazz’s most eloquent balladeers. In these casual masterclasses in jazzmaking on standard songs, Hamilton has not only helped rekindle the style for younger audiences, but has become a significant model for young players too, such as the lyrically inventive bop-based English saxist Allison Neale, who later joined him as a guest.