The Scott Hamilton Trio – Live At Pyatt Hall – Cellar Live CL070217 ****:
An exemplary standard of creativity
( Scott Hamilton – tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello – piano; J.J. Shakur – acoustic bass)
In the summer of 2017, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, working with the Italian Cultural Centre, brought together an American tenor saxophonist who is living in Italy, an Italian pianist who is living in New York, together with an American bassist living in Pennsylvania, for a wonderful musical pizza pie. All of this played out before an appreciative live audience at the intimate 140 seat Pyatt Hall in Vancouver B.C.
The Great American Songbook is the source of most of the material in this recital, with three Italian themed numbers sprinkled throughout the session. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton has been known for his fluid and effortless swinging style since he first burst on the jazz scene in the 1970s. Pianist Rossano Sportiello is not generally as recognized as Hamilton but has a graceful and refined touch that perfectly suits the context of this session. The opening track is “Tangerine” which is a fine example of the symbiosis of these two players. Briskly up-tempo, it is flows smoothly from Hamilton’s approach, and is picked up by Sportiello in his own harmonic language.
The first Italian composition is by Bruno Martino called “Estate” and it became a bossa nova hit when it was recorded by João Gilberto. The group gives it that bossa feel throughout the ballad interpretation, which is done with soulful restraint. Whether it’s the up-tempo “Three Little Words”or the frisky “ You Do Something To Me” or the easy flowing “Darn That Dream” the trio shows that it has a lyrical approach to the material with an undercurrent of ebullient swing.
In 1959, the French director Marcel Camus made a Brazilian film entitled Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus in English) which contained the song Manha de Carnaval by Luis Bonfa and Antonio Mario aka “Black Orpheus”. Here the number is a featured vehicle for bassist J.J. Shakur (aka J.J. Wiggins son of bop pianist Gerald Wiggins). While perhaps not an innovator along the lines of Christian McBride, he has a robust deep-toned beat, and kept the group in a solid groove throughout the session.
The final two tracks are long time Italian favourites: “Torna A Surriento” and “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu”( not Blue as shown in the liner notes). As for the former, it found some popular success in the US when Dean Martin recorded it in 1952, and more recently it has been revived by Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli with an operatic flavour. After a languid opening, the band gives it a lively tempo full of Hamilton’s relaxed fluid delivery. Pianist Sportiello shows his understanding of the Italian metier with some delicate interventions. There is also a strong interlude from bassist Shakur.
There was a major kerfuffle in 1958 when “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (Volare ) did not win the Eurovision Song Contest. As sung by Domenico Modugno, he wowed the audience but failed to sway the judges. Nevertheless it went on to win Billboards’ 1958 song of the year and also won a Grammy for Best Song and Best Record. The trio’s version is a subtle swinger filled with effortless energy.
All in all, a grand evening filled with an exemplary calibre of creativity.
Three Little Words
Darn That Dream
You Do Something To Me
Just As Though You Were Here
Old Fashioned Love
Torna A Surriento
Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blue