As he did thirty years ago.
His tone remains remarkably warm and assured, as it always has.
His repertoire remains focused on the standards songs with meaningful lyrics or compositions with universally appealing melodies as it always has.
His interests remain always acoustic as they always have.
At a time when jazz fusion was capturing listeners’ attention with oh-so-revolutionary electronics and experimentation with new sounds, Scott Hamilton represented a throw-back to the masters of the tenor sax like Gene Ammons and Don Byas. Those jazz masters had been largely ignored when the next new thing captured the fancy of that generation's leading edge of jazz pioneers.
An intermediate link between the Swing Era popularity of the big band tenors and the revivalism instituted by Wynton Marsalis in the 1980s, Hamilton arrived on the scene in 1977 fully formed. His sound and his interests were an extension of his personality. His dabbling in fusion would have been false. Hamilton knew his musical strengths and he applied them, bringing attention to the beauty of the tenor sax sound in similar fashion to Joey DeFrancesco’s calling-again-of-attention to the power of the Hammond B-3 organ after its inexplicable fall from popularity.
Now, Hamilton has recorded his forty-first album for Concord Records, and his style is largely unchanged from his first album. That's a good thing. A person knows what a Scott Hamilton album will contain before hearing it, just as one would know what to expect from a Tony Bennett or a Thelonious Monk recording. Each CD has been a reaffirmation of his solid musical foundation and his consistent style reaffirmations that listeners continue to enjoy and to purchase.
On Nocturnes & Serenades, Hamilton continues. As he has before. Playing ballads and standards. Which Concord has called "nocturnes and serenades." Which, when you think of it, is an accurate description of what is heard. The terms "nocturnes" and "serenades" add perspective to the classic sound that Hamilton creates every time he picks up his horn and plays. His choices of songs and his tone recall the venues in which many of the songs received initial acceptance: the nightclubs.
The strength of "Man with a Horn," which indeed Hamilton has been throughout most of his life, isn’t so much the delivery of a performance in strict adherence to its notation. It’s a nocturne, played at night and remniscent of the locale where the subject of the song would entertain audiences.
"A Portrait of Jenny"--burnished and attractive with Hamilton’s vocalistic approach to song interpretation, constantly aware of a song’s words as well as its notes--proceeds as a serenade, the sonic recollection setting up a description of the composition’s subject with warmth and fondness.
Now a citizen of the world, with homes in London and Tokyo, Hamilton has recorded Nocturnes & Serenades with a like-minded British rhythm section whose members provide solid support for Hamilton’s authoritative interpretations of the material. Pianist John Pearce balances Hamilton’s matured richness of tone with broad chords and spontaneous response, filling some of the rests with subtle modulations or harmonic reflections upon what Hamilton had just played.
The primary re-discovery of Noctures & Serenades is Hamilton’s inclusion of "By the River Sainte Marie," a song rarely heard any more but one whose light swing is entirely consistent with the other noctures and serenades of the CD. The strength of bassist Dave Green on this song provides evidence of Hamilton’s ability to attract superb accompanists throughout his career, no matter where in the world he plays.
Some of the songs actually leave nothing to doubt about the nature of the music, such as "Autumn Nocturne" or "Serenade in Blue." However, Hamilton has chosen songs with the same deep shades of the evening’s colors, dark and glowing and reassuring. From the initial attack and the octave-long descent in the introduction of "Man with a Horn" and thus, in the introduction of Nocturnes & Serenades" to the final susurration of "A Portrait of Jenny," Scott Hamilton remains entirely consistent, within the confines of the album’s fifty-six minutes and within the breadth of his three-decade-long musical career.