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Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton: ‘Round Midnight

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“My Melancholy Baby” opens this two-tenor session in an easygoing groove with laidback, swinging saxophone solos reminiscent of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. This is the third recorded meeting of Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton, and it’s a characteristically happy one flaunting many old-school virtues: Of course, there is the phrasing and tonal affiliation with Lester Young, and the occasional articulation-related reference to Ben Webster (Allen’s breathy way of pushing his notes along on “How Am I to Know”) and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (both tenors on Davis’ “Hey Lock!”). The tenormen demonstrate mastery of voice leading in their phrases and convey a flowing sense of rhythm. The rhythm section of pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs maintains a Basie-like agility and pulse.

Among the other tracks, Allen and Hamilton cover the fertile harmonic ground of Rodgers and Hart’s “Lover” in an exhilarating uptempo romp (Allen slurring like Lockjaw, Hamilton dancing like Zoot). They perform “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” as a slow bossa nova, creating lovely improvised phrases along the way. Allen’s “Great Scott,” based on the chord changes to “Indiana,” unleashes Hamilton, and the rhythm section drives hard. The title track is dark and smoky, with warm atmospheric exchanges between the leaders.

Throughout the album the tenors conjure up their predecessors as soloists, and when they come together to harmonize, they evoke Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers” saxophone section. A most impressive session.

Originally Published