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Saxophonist Scott Hamilton Harmonizes With The Jeff Hamilton Trio On 'Live In Bern'

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Saxophonist Scott Hamilton Harmonizes With The Jeff Hamilton Trio On 'Live In Bern'

Music Reviews

Saxophonist Scott Hamilton Harmonizes With The Jeff Hamilton Trio On 'Live In Bern'

Saxophonist Scott Hamilton Harmonizes With The Jeff Hamilton Trio On 'Live In Bern'

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For years, Scott Hamilton toured as a soloist. Recently he recorded a new album with drummer Jeff Hamilton's band. Critic Kevin Whitehead says the record showcases Scott Hamilton's ageless style.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. For years, saxophonist Scott Hamilton has been touring as a soloist without a band of his own. So he often works with new acquaintances. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that can be risky, but sometimes everybody gets along - like on a recent meeting in Switzerland with drummer Jeff Hamilton's trio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton on Billy Strayhorn's "Ballad For Very Tired And Very Sad Lotus Eaters." Hamilton's idols on tenor have always been the real old-timers - swing-era saxophonists who linger over a note to show off a luxurious sound. Over time, he became one of those players he emulated - the ones who could craft a beautiful statement on the spot with good timing and subtle wit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG)

WHITEHEAD: Scott Hamilton, with no-relation drummer Jeff Hamilton, slipping into a Brazilian march groove. Hamilton and Hamilton are billed as coleaders on the new "Live In Bern" - a curious title, since it was recorded in a nightclub but without an audience. It's quieter that way. Hamilton the drummer and the leader of the rhythm trio is a swinger equally at home driving a big band or a small one. Some drummer leaders never let you forget it's their name above the title, but this one's happy to lay down a carpet for a saxophonist who's on a roll. Scott Hamilton's ballad sound is especially gorgeous here. This is Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," a favorite of Stan Getz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG, "SOUL EYES")

WHITEHEAD: I wouldn't have minded a couple more slow ballads on "Live In Bern," but coleaders Hamilton and Hamilton keep the material varied. The swing tenors like to stomp a bit, too. Jeff Hamilton's longtime pianist Tamir Handelman and bassist Christoph Luty fall right in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG)

WHITEHEAD: When Scott Hamilton first came along in the 1970s, sporting a Clark Gable mustache and playing 30s-style saxophone to match, it could seem like he was acting out a role. But it's been ages since his music sounded contrived in any way. Now it just sounds like beautiful tenor saxophone playing. Hamilton's sound isn't archaic - it's ageless.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and Tone Audio and is the author of "Why Jazz." He reviewed "Live In Bern," the new recording by the Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio on the Capri label. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Elizabeth Strout, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning collection of stories "Olive Kittredge," which was adapted into an HBO miniseries. Strout's new novel, "My Name Is Lucy Barton," was described in the New York Times Sunday Book Review as articulating the Gordian knot of family, binding together fear and misery; solace and love. I hope you'll join us.

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