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June 2008

Scott Hamilton & Friends
Across the Tracks
Concord Jazz

Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, a consummate, relaxed swinger whose robust, full-bodied tone is steeped in the tradition of such Swing Era tenor giants as Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry and Zoot Sims, has remarkably recorded for the same label since his 1977 Concord Jazz debut. That unbroken streak, as producer Bob Porter points out in the liner notes to Across the Tracks, is unprecedented. It’s also the first time that Hamilton has worked with the veteran jazz engineer Rudy Van Gelder. This feel-good session reunites Hamilton with longtime friend and fellow Rhode Island native Duke Robillard, founder of Roomful of Blues and a consummate, subtle swinger in his own right (Hamilton appeared on Roomful’s self-titled debut in 1977 and later on Robillard’s 1988 manifesto, Swing). It also marks the first time that the saxophonist has recorded with organ since 1994’s all-Ellington program, Organic Duke.

The other friends here are drummer Chuck Riggs (who played on Organic Duke), the underrated Hammond B-3 burner Gene Ludwig and baritone saxophonist Doug James, who appears as a special guest on two tracks. Together they have a rowdy good time romping through Hamilton’s “Something for Red,” his tribute to jump blues tenor saxophonist Red Prysock, Sonny Stitt’s shuffle-swing anthem “Deuces Wild” and Leo Parker’s jivey “Parker’s Pals,” a feature for baritone ace James.

Elsewhere, Hamilton wraps his butterscotch tone around an easy, midtempo swinging rendition of Fats Waller’s “Blue Turning Grey Over You” and Duke Ellington’s sly, minor key swinger “Cop Out,” which features some nice exchanges between Hamilton and Robillard, whose nimble, swinging six-string excursions throughout are coming directly out of a T-Bone Walker/Pee Wee Crayton/Tiny Grimes camp, as opposed to his more stinging blues-oriented attack with Roomful or the Fabulous Thunderbirds. On the romantic ballad “Save Your Love for Me” and a mellow rendition of the Andy Razaf-Eubie Blake tune popularized by Glenn Miller, “Memories of You,” Hamilton affects a smoky, Ben Webster-ish quality on tenor. Kudos too to organist Ludwig, an outstanding soloist whose syncopated comping and grooving basslines help fuel this high spirited session.

Originally published in June 2008
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