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Scott Hamilton: Nocturnes & Serenades

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This is Scott Hamilton’s 41st recording as a leader or co-leader for the Concord label since he emerged on the scene at 22 in 1977. It is odd to remember that Hamilton was once controversial. No one worries anymore whether a language so clearly not of its own time has artistic validity. Now a different question presents itself: Given the voluminous documentation of his work and the unvarying continuity of his swing-era tenor saxophone style, do we need more Scott Hamilton albums?

Hamilton does not sound like Don Byas or Ben Webster. He sounds like one of their most gifted contemporaries. Nocturnes & Serenades contains 10 songs beyond time, almost all ballads. Hamilton’s patient portrayals possess definitive elegance. On “You Go to My Head” and “Chelsea Bridge,” he lingers on the melodies in his shamelessly sensuous, velvet tenor sound, like a man who knows them intimately and is thinking about them again and finding unsuspected connotations. “I’m Glad There Is You” is one extended gliding caress.

Hamilton plays here with his regular touring British rhythm section. While these three conservative players are not interesting in themselves, Nocturnes & Serenades leaves you convinced that 41 Scott Hamilton albums are not enough.