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Everything’s Great in Guelph — Unless You Ask Sainkho Namtchylak

Jeff Hamilton

Hamilton’s springtime foray into the interior of Washington State gave Pacific Northwest listeners an opportunity to hear the latest edition of his trio. With pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty, the drummer did a series of workshops and concerts at Central Washington University in Ellensburg and Columbia Basin College in Pasco. Playing to a full house in the CWU student union building, Hamilton demonstrated his musicianship, mastery of time and engaging leadership.

Every aspect of Hamilton’s drumming was impressive, none more than his achievement with wire brushes. In support or in solo, the swing intensified when he used brushes rather than sticks at medium and fast tempos. But he turned the tables, notably in “Like a Lover,” and employed sticks with softness possible only through an exquisite degree of control. In a rhythmically complex, nearly convoluted, arrangement of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” the bassist and pianist seemed to fall into momentary confusion, but Hamilton always knew what time it was and led them to safety. He created melody in his solo on “Eu vim da Bahia” as surely as if he were playing a horn. In the process he used brushes, his fingertips, the palms of his hands, and his wedding ring against the rim of the snare drum. “Rhythm-a-ning” may have been a tad too fast for anything much to happen beyond the successful negotiation of a challenging tempo, but that was satisfaction enough. Luty’s eccentric arrangement of “C-Jam Blues” inspired another brilliant Hamilton solo with brushes. Hamilton’s lyrical “Time Passes On” showed his compositional ability. His reharmonization (with an assist from his previous pianist, Larry Fuller) of “Isn’t It Romantic?” and the changes of pace in his arrangement made it one of the highlights of the evening. For all of Hamilton’s technique, he never uses it merely for show. Intricacy and group dynamics are the hallmarks of his playing and of interaction in the trio.

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