This Happy Madness – Cory Weeds & The Jeff Hamilton Trio – CellarLive CL042015, 61:56 ****:
(Cory Weeds – tenor saxophone; Jeff Hamilton – drums; Tamir Hendelman – piano; Christoph Luty – bass)
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this session by Canadian tenor man Cory Weeds and The Jeff Hamilton Trio quite nicely bookends The Jeff Hamilton Trio’s recent outing with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton. While Weeds modestly admits that he is no Scott Hamilton, he is nevertheless, a saxophonist of accomplishment with an enthusiastic style. In this release, to use a sports analogy, he certainly plays up to the level of the competition.
This iteration of The Jeff Hamilton Trio has been together for over 10 years, and the empathetic relationship among the members is abundantly evident, as they are intensely considerate partners. Weeds is the beneficiary of this symbiosis as he has never sounded better. In addition to the band’s musicality, pianist Tamir Hendelman is a terrific arranger and has put his ingenuity to work on six of the eleven tracks, starting with the Cole Porter ditty “Get Out Of Town”, which he wrote for his 1938 musical Leave It To Me! Opening with some evocative brush-work from Hamilton, Weeds uses the soft sound of the brushes to build some tension, before embarking on his foray into his authoritative solo, with Hamilton switching to sticks, riding his cymbals, and then segueing into his own solo which is filled with imagination.
Gordon Lightfoot is an iconic Canadian singer-songwriter in the folk-music tradition, and his tune “Early Morning Rain” is one of his best-known numbers. Credit pianist/arranger Tamir Hendelman with finding the right structure to make it into a jazz version. Weeds develops the theme with sympathy, and covers the tune with feeling. Jeff Hamilton brought one of his own compositions to the party, and it is a swinging number with a short title: “Max”. Full of boisterous good will, the band finds a solid groove with pianist Hendelman in full flight, Weeds keeps up the pace with authority, and in a brief solo bassist Luty shows his insight. All the while drummer Hamilton maintains the rhythmic tension.
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Gene Lees wrote the title track “This Happy Madness”. As might be expected, the number has soft Brazilian lilt, with Weeds showing his poise, as he explores the melody with insight. In this Centenary of Frank Sinatra’s birth, the band tackles two song associated with him, namely “Young At Heart” and “I Thought About You”. The former was originally a hit for Sinatra in 1953, but was carried over to a 1954 movie of the same name starring Sinatra and Doris Day. It swings along here with some deft brush-work from Hamilton. Weeds carries the tune forward over some solid comping from Hendelman, leading to a series of block chord bars as part of his solo efforts. The band takes the tune out in a sprightly fashion. As for the other Sinatra-associated tune, Cory Weeds wrote the arrangement to give himself abundant opportunity to demonstrate his proficiency and musical aesthetic as a player of substance. Christof Luty takes a well deserved solo spot, that shows he is a bass player with a big tone and abundant technique.
Most Canadian jazz musicians, except those well-known bold-face names, are a rather self-effacing lot. Content to stay and play in their own back yard, they avoid their US counterparts to stave off unfavourable comparisons. Thankfully Cory Weeds does not fall into that mould. Unquestionably, Weeds was pushed along by the superior musicianship of The Jeff Hamilton Trio, nevertheless he shows that he can play with abounding accomplishment, and has an eloquent command of his instrument.
TrackList: Blow Your Horn; Get Out Of Town; Early Morning Rain; Max; Out Of The Night Came You; This Happy Madness; Young At Heart; I Thought About You; There’s a Lull In My Life; Secret Love; Mr. Baggy Pants