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Jeff Hamilton

You might think that an A-list drummer who has played on 200 albums with artists like Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Dee Dee Bridgewater, and who leads a fantastic 20-year-old orchestra in Los Angeles where he also does plenty of studio work, would not set up for a gig with his trio on a Thursday noon in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Jeff Hamilton

But Jeff Hamilton is such a drummer, and yes, he's in K'zoo with two young proteges -- Tamir Hendelman on piano, Christoph Luty on bass -- on a JazzSet from the 2006 Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. It's a stop in a tour of Jeff's Midwestern homeland. Jeff grew up in Richmond, Ind.

One highlight of the set is also a history lesson. The late-1950s Ahmad Jamal Trio recording of "Poinciana" is an all-time classic. The slow-moving piano melody (Jamal) ebbs and flows, the bass line (Israel Crosby) is misterioso, and the drums (Vernell Fournier) are simply sexy. Jeff Hamilton plays a subtle new "Poinciana," paying tribute to the original but adding his own ideas.

In an e-mail, JazzSet asked Jeff what he's thinking about when he plays with brushes (rather than sticks), and Jeff wrote back: "Smooth legato sound with musical ideas coming from that. I try to get as full a sound as possible. I've always loved hearing them played. My first recollection is hearing them on a Louis Armstrong recording and wondering how they got that sound. I would play along with records trying to emulate that sound. An all-day lesson with Philly Joe Jones in '75 was very influential, and having friends like Shelly Manne, Jake Hanna and Ed Thigpen (to name three great drummers) hasn't hurt either."

And it's not just the brushes that are putty in Jeff's hands. In the Kalamazoo Gazette, reviewer William R. Wood cited "A Felicidade" by Antonio Carlos Jobim as the highlight of the set, writing, "Hamilton delicately coaxed a variety of percussive textures from his drums and cymbals using the palms of his hands and fingertips."

"I Love Being Here with You" (Lee, Schluger)
"Poinciana" (Bernier, Simon)
"Too Close for Comfort" (Bock, Holofcenter, Weiss)
"A Felicidade" (Jobim)
"C-Jam Blues" (Ellington)
"Second Street Samba" (Hamilton)
"Blues for Stephanie" (Clayton)

Jeff Hamilton

The new CD is Jeff Hamilton Trio From Studio 4, Cologne, Germany

The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival presents a great array of jazz, classical and hard-to-classify artists every second spring in Kalamazoo, with other activities throughout the year.

Our engineer and Technical Director is Duke Markos with Brown & Brown Recording -- Kevin Brown and Brian Drewes.
Thanks to Fabienne Favaro at Radio France. Becca Pulliam is Producer with Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III @ Jazz 88 WBGO in Newark

Copyright 2007 NPR