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Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live From San Pedro (Capri)

Review of piano trio led by prolific and influential drummer

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Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live From San Pedro (Capri)
Cover of Jeff Hamilton Trio album Live at San Pedro

Is there a more time-honored jazz tradition than the piano trio? From Nat Cole to Erroll Garner, Bill Evans to the Bad Plus, the format has remained a favorite of pianists throughout the music’s history, allowing for the purest expression available. Of course, piano trios are generally led by pianists, but there are exceptions, with Jeff Hamilton’s longstanding group being among the most prominent on today’s scene. For 17 years now, the drummer (when he’s not working with the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra or freelancing) has piloted the group, which features formidable partners in pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty.

Live From San Pedro is just what’s advertised: an unsullied concert recording captured during a single gig at Alvas Showroom in the L.A. community in early 2017. Digging into a variety of material—a couple of originals, a Monk vehicle, a show tune, a pair from Hamilton’s big-band partner John Clayton—the trio offers a lesson in democracy, spreading solo spots around evenly while never losing sight of the unit’s singularity of purpose.

Not surprisingly, Hendelman goes to town on the Monk entry, “In Walked Bud,” working his way quickly toward a mighty swing before ceding the floor to Luty and Hamilton. “Poinciana” is given a quasi-tropical beat here, winding down after a bit for Luty to make a brief but bold statement. A sprightly “Gary, Indiana,” from The Music Man, makes sure to reference the core melody often, but the trio has no qualms about taking the tune for a ride too.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Live at San Pedro by the Jeff Hamilton Trio on iTunes.

Watch video interview with Jeff Hamilton from the Jazz Cruise.

Originally Published