Hamilton has kept not-the-highest profile the past few years. His new album Foreststorn (Koch Jazz) just came out, and to celebrate/promote its release Hamilton and his new young band Euphoria played the Knitting Factory one pleasantly warm NYC. The show actually started on time (a rarity in New York), the sound in the Knitting Factory's Main Space was excellent and the music was indeed Hot Fun In The Summertime! Hamilton was joy to watch AND hear ' his playing alternated between (and combined) a assured, swinging groove and an almost rock-like WHUMP ' never overplaying, un-fancy, joyful and relaxed. Guitarist Cary DeNigris' approach synthesized Jim Hall and Eric Clapton, with a touch of Bill Frisell ' his playing was dusted liberally with The Blues, keeping his feet firmly on the ground whilst his solos soared. Erik Lawrence played alto and soprano saxophones earnestly, his alto tart, swift, muscular and blue-sharp a la Cannonball Adderley and Gary Bartz. Evan Schwam played some robust tenor sax that would've made Ben Webster proud. There was a John Coltrane influence as well, but the Influence didn't overwhelm his playing. Both sax guys mastered the Neat Trick of Nurturing The Tradition without sounding like jazz stopped in 1964 with the Blue Note/Prestige Sound. Electric bassist Paul Ramsey played in the upfront, rippling guitar-like style of Jaco Pastorius and Fernando Saunders, which I'm usually not crazy about but he pulled it off with aplomb, warmth and restraint. Hamilton's band was exactly that ' they played as a unit, not just as an assemblage of soloists. No noodling, doodling, meandering or water-treading tonight. Stylistically, it was an intermingling of groove-rich 60s soul jazz, the cool school, swing, hard bop and mid-70s fusion, with no one approach dominating.
The program consisted of selections from the new album and a few unusual choices and treatments of standards. 'Angel Eyes' began with some mellow, good-natured mock-torch singing from Hamilton (he's not a bad singer, actually), then the band launched into a sumptuously bluesy rendition. 'When The Saints Go etc.' was given a New Orleans treatment, with plenty of polyphony and rolling second-line drumming. Chico & his Euphoria genuinely enjoyed performing for the crowd ' these weren't Artists from some Mount Olympus, acting like they were doing the audience a favor just by Being There. Chico & Euphoria played FOR the audience ' without pandering - and genuinely relished doing it. The show went on for a good 90+ minutes, then a rousing crowd response ' a standing ovation- brought everybody back for an encore: a freewheeling Ellington medley that sent everybody home happy.