Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio – Live In Bern – Capri 74139-2 67:58 ****:

(Scott Hamilton – tenor sax; Jeff Hamilton – drums; Tamir Hendelman – piano; Christof Luty – bass)

Hamilton and Hamilton are not a Wall Street law firm, but a sympathetic coming together of two jazz players of prolific accomplishments. They have an aesthetic, and an exploratory grasp of the idiom in which they are classy practitioners. In this release entitled Live In Bern, they provide a thoughtful exposition of compositions from the Great American Songbook, plus several well-known jazz favorites.

With the ever-inventive Tamir Hendelman on piano and the dynamic Christof Luty on bass, the band provides a gold standard of what confident partners mean. The whole album is a delight, with the first three tracks putting a stake in the ground that says this is the place for dynamic lyricism, scintillating tone, and groove-driven swing.

Firstly, “September In The Rain” starts off with Scott Hamilton on tenor and Jeff Hamilton on drums in a soft-shoe routine driven by the drummer’s brush work. The pace picks up nicely as bassist Luty and pianist Hendelman join the fray, as the tune plays out in a charming and authoritative style. Cole Porter’s “All Through The Night” is done in a Latin beat with Scott Hamilton’s tenor leading the way with his solid uncluttered tone. Jeff Hamilton’s drums keeps time with his usual zest and ingenuity. Tamir Hendelman shows he is a pianist of uncommon improvisational qualities. Michel Legrand wrote “Watch What Happens” for the movie The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, never imagining the ebullient swinging version that the band rolls out here.  Scott Hamilton’s surging tenor charges along constructing interesting phrases which are picked up by pianist Hendelman with some erudite soloing. All the while drummer Jeff Hamilton seems to have an inexhaustible supply of cross rhythms.

The album says that this session is Live In Bern, in fact it is not. The recording took place at a club called Marians Jazzroom in Bern, but there was no audience present. Perhaps Capri Records believed that since the location was a club, that would have had patrons if it had been open for the recording, it was fine to say it was a live recording. This was a Pinocchio moment that can be overlooked given the high quality of the sound recording and the superb musicianship.

Although Benny Carter wrote “Key Largo” in 1948, the same year the noir film of the same name directed by John Huston was released, the song and the picture never intertwined. In fact the only music in the film was an a cappella rendition of “Moanin’ Low” by the character Gaye Dawn, as played by Claire Trevor. The reflective Latin-tinged version of the tune offered here has an engaging meandering tastefulness with the two Hamilton’s playing off each other. Now whether the band takes the Dizzy Gillespie opus “Woody’n You”, or Alan Hawkshaw’s funky “The Champ”, the result is an elegant and diligent commitment to creativity.

In this first time encounter of Scott Hamilton & The Jeff Hamilton Trio, the results could not be any more fulfilling or abundantly creative.

TrackList: September In The Rain; All Through The Night; Watch What Happens; Soul Eyes; This Can’t Be Love; There’ll Be Some Changes Made; Sybille’s Day; Key Largo; Woody’n You; The Champ; Ballad For Very Tired And Very Sad Lotus Eaters; You And The Night And The Music; Centerpiece

—Pierre Giroux