Hamilton + Hendelman + Luty = small group par excellence 

Jeff Hamilton Trio – Live From San Pedro – Capri Records 74147-2 53:49****

(Jeff Hamilton – drums; Tamir Hendelman – piano; Christoph Luty – bass)

Jeff Hamilton is a drummer of peerless taste and swing. When coupled with his longtime cohorts pianist Tamir Hendelman, and bassist Christoph Luty the resulting ensemble is one of the most accomplished and invigorating trios working in today’s jazz world. Their latest release Live From San Pedro is a delightful reflection of that embodiment.

Recorded live in a single performance at the Alvas Showroom in San Pedro California on January 8, 2017,  the trio teases out a scintillating session composed  of a well recognized bop classic, show tunes, a revisited iconic number from the Ahmad Jamal playbook, and several original numbers from the band members.

Let’s begin with the Thelonious Monk piece “In Waked Bud” which Monk wrote for pianist Bud Powell. The idiosyncratic interpretation offered by Monk is not contemplated by Hendelman. Rather it is a statement of smoothness and energy, interjected with some deft bass work by Luty, and Hamilton doing his  compelling drumming to propel the group along.

The show tunes are deliciously represented by “I Have Dreamed” by Rodgers and Hammerstein from The King And I  and Meredith Wilson’s “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man. The former opens with an arco bass passage from bassist Luty, followed by a captivatingly poignant Heldelman offering of the melody, before his solo interventions. On the latter, Wilson would not recognize the samba interpretation that Hendelman embarks on, with the support of the tireless brush work of Hamilton.

“Poinciana”written by Buddy Bernier and Nate Simon in 1936, was based on a Cuban folk song “ La cancíon del árbol”. Although frequently recorded, it never really quite caught on until pianist Ahmad Jamal brought out his rendition in 1958 on the album But Not For Me, Live at the Pershing. Jamal used his minimalist approach and extended vamps and stop time choruses to build tension within the composition. The hand in glove treatment offered by Hamilton and Hendelman use Jamal’s interpretative  frame to show that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.   

Hamilton is one of jazz’s most versatile drummers as he is at home whether propelling a big band with his stick work, or simply supporting a small group with his tasty and effortless brushwork. The latter is exemplified on bassist John Clayton’s composition “Brush This”.  As his brushes dance over the drum kit, Hamilton produces a sound world full of graceful assurance. Hendelman swings provocatively, and Luty shows solid intonation.

This is as good as it gets in the world of piano trio jazz.

Sybille’s Day
Hammer’s Tones
I Have Dreamed
In Walked Bud
Gina’s Groove
Brush This
Gary, Indiana
Hoosier Friend

—Pierre Giroux