Impressionist Rich Little can switch from one instantly recognizable celebrity voice to another in warp speed. But who can readily identify the voice of Rich Little?
Similarly, the versatile, fluid Scott Hamilton is able to suggest any of his mentors at the drop of an eighth note: from Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon and Zoot Sims to Al Cohn, Flip Phillips, Lester Young, Paul Gonsalves-even Bud Freeman. There's nothing wrong with sounding like others, especially those in the pantheon, but it's just that a definitive Hamilton sound rarely emerges.
Hamilton's latest, Jazz Signatures, is a politely swinging, meticulously crafted, well-engineered collection of standards not heard as often as they deserve. Highlights include "Jitterbug Waltz," in bright thirds with pianist John Bunch; "In Your Own Sweet Way," with those challenging Brubeck changes; the same harmonic comment applies to Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now"; the elegance of Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low;" the hard-swinging Strayhorn line "Raincheck" and the even harder swing of Bunch's "John's Bunch."
So, then, what difference does it make if Hamilton is an aural chameleon? The guy is a first-rate jazz soloist who never disappoints. If his tenor style is not unique maybe there is a finite number of sounds, tones and phrasings. What Hamilton proves is that good taste is unlimited.