Hard to accept is the description of Jeff Hamilton as a “veteran” , but that’s how he is described in the press release accompanying an excellent new CD from this master drummer. When he first appeared on the jazz scene back in the mid-1970s, his youthful appearance allied as it was to sprightly playing was a joy to many who feared that subtle, rhythmic and always swinging drumming was fading from the jazz scene. These days, happily, there are many drummers who play like this, and I suppose that it must be acknowledged that Hamilton has rather more gray in his hair than most of the others. But listening to his playing on this CD you would certainly never know it. He is joined here by the regular piano player and bass player of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and the fluid interplay of these three fine musicians, Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman and Cristoph Luty, makes clear how attuned each is to the others. This musical empathy provides one of the reasons why that particular big band is so good and so popular. But this is trio time, and as the spotlight shifts from one to another it is fascinating to hear how all consistently contribute to the group’s overall well-being. Hendelman is a thoughtful pianist, popular with singers, who need a musician of subtlety and grace. But he is also a soloist of distinction and his always inventive playing is a source of great delight. Luty plays with a solid sense of swing, urging along his companions and finding in his solo moments touches of brilliance, especially apparent when he takes an arco solo on, appropriately enough, a Ray Brown composition. But this is Hamilton’s group, and although throughout he makes clear that this is a joint enterprise, the ears are constantly drawn to his tasteful accompaniment, especially notable in his brush work, and in solos that are crisp and perfectly timed and placed. Red Sparkle, in case you are wondering, was the color of Jeff Hamilton’s first drum kit. Fortunate for all of us, it wasn’t his last.
Those of you who subscribe to Jazz Journal will have already seen the February 2012 issue wherein are the results of the annual Critic’s Poll. Some thirty reviewers have picked their ten best CDs from 2011 (votes are allowed for five new releases and five reissues). Out of interest, the winners are:
(New Releases) Jan Lundgren -Together Again...At The Jazz Bakery; Bobby Wellins - Time Gentlemen, Please; Michael Garrick - Tone Poems; Tommy Smith - Karma; Mathias Eick - Skala; Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian - Live At Birdland; Gary Burton - Common Ground; Kurt Elling - The Gate; Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes; Joe Lovano Us Five - Bird Songs
(Reissues) Duke Ellington - 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia, Master; Louis Armstrong - The Ambassador Of Jazz; John Coltrane - Original Album Series; Buck Clayton - Complete Legendary Jam Sessions; Miles Davis - The Bootleg Sessions Vol. 1; Joe Harriott - The Joe Harriott Story; Coleman Hawkins - The High And Mighty Hawk; Charles Mingus - Blues And Roots; Sonny Clark - Sonny’s Conception; Ornette Coleman - Original Album Series
My choices were:
(New Releases) Marcus Shelby - Soul Of The Movement; Warren Vaché/Alan Barnes - London Session; René Marie - Voice Of My Beautiful Country; Karrin Allyson - ’Round Midnight; Alan Barnes/Ken Mathison - Glasgow Suite. (Reissues) Buck Clayton - Complete Legendary Jam Sessions; Duke Ellington - Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia Master Recordings; Jimmy Rushing - Rushing Lullabies + Brubeck And Rushing; Blue Mitchell - Blue’s Moods - Louis Armstrong - Satchmo: Ambassador Of Jazz
For the rest, and they make fascinating reading, you need to see the magazine and if you are not a subscriber then take a look at Jazz Journal’s website where you can correct that omission in your jazz reading.