Jeff Hamilton: Hamilton House

The jazz establishment and press give Hamilton a fraction of the notice they devote to drummers of less experience and skill, but many of those very players study and attempt to emulate his work. He swings big bands harder than anyone since Mel Lewis. With subtlety and timbral variety, he applies the same drive in his trio with pianist Larry Fuller and bassist Lynn Seaton. Under the surface perfection of Hamilton’s trio are muscle and rhythmic volatility that bring to mind the Oscar Peterson trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. It is a pleasure to hear those attributes in this CD recorded at Steamer’s in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

The precision the three have developed in the last few years is cheerfully flaunted on “Rhythm-n-ing” and “Move” via stop-time delays that build tension-and amusement. It is equally apparent on “Hamilton House,” a traditional Scottish ballad with much of the feeling, but not the chord structure, of “Greensleeves,” on Gilberto Gil’s “Eu Vim da Bahia,” and seven other pieces. Hamilton’s “Old Man Fluss” and “Teef” are among the most interesting compositions on the album. Fuller’s playing concentrates less on harmonic innovation than on swing and group dynamics. He incorporates elements of Peterson’s approach to voicings and blues-oriented figures that jibe with Seaton’s powerful mainstream bass and Hamilton’s propulsiveness. Seaton’s bowing-humming improvisations and his pizzicato solo on a blues in G are highlights, but Hamilton holds the center of attention with his irresistible swing and the musical structure of his solos.