Scott Hamilton & Rossano Sportiello – Midnight At Nola’s Penthouse – Arbors ARCD 19415, 65:57 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
(Scott Hamilton – tenor sax; Rossano Sportiello – piano)
Scott Hamilton is a big, bold, creative, tenor sax player who has been active on the jazz scene since the mid 1970s. Rossano Sportiello, who was born in Italy, and now a New York City resident, is a versatile pianist who can play in many styles with equal facility. Together they have put out a program that covers a panoply of music that validates their partnership.
A relaxed version of “Wonder Why” leads off the session, and gives the listener a taste of what’s to come. Hamilton seems to be fond of this tune, as he recorded it in 2006 with the Bill Charlap Trio, but that was presented in a sprightlier rendition. In the early 1950s The Four Aces made “A Garden In The Rain” a Billboard hit, but it could hardly be thought of as the basis of a jazz ballad. This performance is a game changer. As the album continues with its combination of popular standards and some minor pieces, it becomes evident how much respect these two musicians have for each other. They deliver support where and when appropriate, and stay out of each other’s way when required. Check out “This Can’t Be Love” where Sportiello seems to be channelling Dave McKenna, and Hamilton breezes along holding the tune together.
As these enormously well-suited jazz musicians continue on their journey, they coalesce on an interesting animated take on “Big Butter And Egg Man” and then a take-no-prisoners version of “All God’s Chillun’ Got Rhythm”. Closing with “In The Middle Of A Kiss”, a somewhat obscure piece, we can appreciate their minimalist approach to the composition. This is a well played and thoughtful album and would augur favourably for an encore.
TrackList: Wonder Why; A Garden In The Rain; This Can’t Be Love; A Time For Love; Come Back To Sorrento; All My Tomorrows; Big Butter And Egg Man; It’s All In Your Mind; All God’s Chillun’ Got Rhythm; In The Middle Of A Kiss.
— Pierre Giroux