Straight ahead, swinging and always fresh, Scott Hamilton took the stage with Brian Lemon piano, Dave Green - double bass and Steve Brown drums. I was always partial to a man with a $100 haircut and a good shine on his shoes, but Scott oozes the kind of slick refinement you see when you know the next sound you will hear is the olive in the martini. The man and the music seem to fit. Scott’s physical image has not changed much since the seventies, but his playing only gets better.
The set opened with the Coleman Hawkins/T. Monk’s I Mean You from his CD entitled "Blues, Bop & Ballads." Also from the same CD, Scott played a fabulous rendition of Johnny Mercer’s Skylark in smooth breathy tones. Working a variation with Yesterdays, Scott began a haunting intro and slid into a slow Bossa treatment with grace and perfection. The interplay with the other members of the quartet was easy and spontaneous. Complementing Scott’s styling, British pianist, Brian Lemon, is a regular British Jazz Award winner. Lemon has played with many jazz greats touring Europe and is still "first call" when an exceptional pianist is needed.
I had my little hand-written sign just in case Scott wasn’t prepared to perform Carl Perkins’ Groove Yard and when the opportunity presented itself, I humbly held it up for him to see. Scott smiled and laughed. "We’ll play that next," he said. I see Groove Yard as one of Scott’s best pieces. He really swings it and his performance doesn’t seem complete without it. You can find it on his Concord CD, Race Point (1992) which is a great CD to add to your collection.
Woody Herman’s Apple Honey and the exceptional Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz were additional crowd-pleasers, but my personal favorite and surprise of evening was Scott’s heart-wrenching rendition of My Old Flame. This is a forties torch song rarely performed nowadays. You would be hard-pressed not to relate to the passion of this piece and Scott handled it with tender prowess. What I love about his consistent tenor sax playing is his ability to present these old standards the way the songs where originally intended-a refreshing change as everything is new again.
Chatting with Scott after the concert, I learned that his quartet will be returning to London and in two weeks, tour Germany and Switzerland. Scott has been spending a lot of time in London lately and plays a variety of venues there and throughout Europe as well. "You just don’t find these types of venues in the States," said Scott. "There are so many places to play here."
In June, Scott leaves for New England to do a couple of dates, returning to perform back through London in July. August finds Scott at the Gouvy Jazz-Blues Festival at Ferme (farm) Madelonne with sidemen R. Van Hav (db), J. Clèment (p) and M. Dennis (dr). This is a beautiful Belgian jazz venue about 15-minutes from the German border in the remote countryside. Ferme Madelonne is owned by Claude Lentz who also operates the active farm there. It was Claude’s passion for jazz that prompted him in the seventies to convert the old stone farmhouse into a jazz club. The woods surrounding it are beautiful and include several large tents where the annual 3-day jazz and blues concert is held. Gouvy has presented so many jazz greats since 1978 (from Dizzy to legendary pianist, Bill Evans) and it is only fitting that Scott is included in its ranks.
Scott started playing tenor sax as a young teenager, listening to records from his father’s jazz collection of the 1930s/40s. He appeared on the scene as an apparent throwback to those times, recreating the tenor styling of Ben Webster. Audiences were in awe of Scott as they thought this style was long defunct, but Scott proved them wrong by becoming an important addition to the fading jazz mainstream. Most of his numerous recordings and concerts are under his own name, but he has also appeared with the bands of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, John Bunch and Bill Berry. Additionally, he teamed up with Ruby Braff, Charlie Byrd and Buddy Tate. He is still hugely popular on the festival circuit, appearing as leader or principal soloist with all-star groups such as the Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars and the Concord Super Band. He has been recording with Concord Jazz since his New York days and has many excellent CDs under his belt. It is there that you may also find additional tour dates for him, that is, he
If you are coming to Europe this summer, you can be sure to catch Scott performing somewhere, so put him on your sightseeing list. You won’t be disappointed. Also check out his latest Concord CD, Ballad Essentials, with Howard Alden and Alan Broadbent. It includes standards like "Skylark," "Body and Soul," "Round Midnight" and "In a Sentimental Mood." It’s a fine collection of mainstream jazz and Scott creates his own personal vision of a bygone era with a sense of confident, melodic improvisation.