Scott Hamilton – Live at Smalls – Smalls SL 0040, 68:21 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****:
(Scott Hamilton – tenor sax; Rossano Sportiello – piano; Hassan Shakur – bass; Chuck Riggs – drums)
Since the 1970s Scott Hamilton has kept alive old school swing mainstream tenor sax. He created a stir back then since he was only in his mid-20s at that time, and fusion jazz was hot then. A young tenor with a muscular tone like Ben Webster certainly stood out. Today Harry Allen has inherited a similar reputation and he and Scott sometime play together. So much for old moldy figs…
Hamilton is a ballad master and given an adequate rhythm section and a good acoustics in an intimate setting, mainstream tenor fans are in for a relaxing, yet swinging evening. Smalls, located in Greenwich Village in the Big Apple, is a perfect venue for Hamilton and his backing trio is spot-on for both comping behind Hamilton, and when given the opportunity to solo, acquit themselves well.
The song list are old school standards recorded over two nights in Feb. 2013 in front of an appreciative audience. Hamilton gets into a warm, easygoing groove on “Shake It, Don’t Break It,” and “Running Wild” and continues through such well known chestnuts as “The Nearness of You” and “If I Ever Love Again.” Nothing earth shattering, but when you are in the mood to hear ballads played like the masters (Hawkins, Webster, and Young), then Scott is your man. And he never disappoints.
I like the fact that Smalls is open to all kinds of jazz artists, from freewheeling avant to mainstream balladeers. We’ll cover the new Smalls Live CD from Frank Lacy soon. It’s all about good jazz in all its formats….
TrackList: Shake It, Don’t Break It, Runnin’ Wild, Ah Moore, Estate, The Nearness of You, Apple Honey, Sweet Georgia Brown, If I Ever Love Again, Easy Does It