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Scott Hamilton: Back in New York

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Scott Hamilton’s latest effort, Back in New York, teams him with the Bill Charlap Trio, a match that brings out the best in everyone involved. Hamilton’s polished, mainstream approach to the tenor saxophone fits ideally with the long-standing trio of pianist Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. Their collaboration on this nicely varied program of 10 jazz and popular standards eschews fireworks and grandstanding in favor of understatement and finesse.

On uptempo tunes like Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘n’ Boogie” and the racing “Fine and Dandy,” Hamilton elevates his dynamic level as the dramatic curve dictates, but for the most part he swings effortlessly and doggedly at moderate volume levels. The trio accompanies him accordingly, with Charlap adopting a similar dynamic strategy in his own solos.

Hamilton’s ballad playing, while recognizably personal, evokes latter-day Zoot Sims, even as far as including the gentle Ben Webster-like growls that occasionally showed up in Sims’ lines. And Hamilton handles such songs as the very slow “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” as Sims did, with warmth and grace.

Charlap’s classic-sounding bop improvisations also swing effortlessly, drawing the listener in with rhythmic and melodic subtlety. Peter Washington provides not only a solid underpinning for the ensemble but especially lyrical solos of his own, while drummer Kenny performs his role with confident professionalism and exquisite taste.