The horns harmonize sweetly before Hamilton plays his solo, exhibiting excellent speed and control, his fast flurries punctuated by space.
Whirlwind Records WR4808
Linley Hamilton (trumpet); Derek Doc O’Connor (tenor sax); Cian Boylan (piano, organ, Fender Rhodes); Mark Egan (bass); Adam Nussbaum (drums)
Recorded Camden Recording Studios, Dublin 1-3 May 2022
Irish musician Linley Hamilton is truly a man for all seasons. A talented trumpeter and composer (he has played with Van Morrison and Jacqui Dankworth), broadcaster (his Jazz World programme on BBC Ulster is highly recommended); educator (he has a doctorate in jazz performance and teaches music at Ulster university), and a true champion for jazz talent – he was responsible for the British jazz-rock Swift reforming after 40 years and recording their debut album In Another Lifetime, and Hamilton and his wife Maggie Doyle have created Ireland’s version of the famous New York Loft Scene with Magy’s Farm, a music space for musicians to play and rehearse on their farm in County Down.
Hamilton has recorded a handful as albums as leader and this latest features an Irish-American line-up comprised of Hamilton and two Irish musicians – keyboardist Cian Boylan, who has played with various artists including, George Michael, Gregory Porter and Brian Eno, and tenor saxophonist Derek Doc O’Connor, who has played with Chaka Khan and The Boomtown Rats.
The two American musicians are bassist Mark Egan (Gil Evans, Pat Metheny and David Sanborn) and drummer Adam Nussbaum (Michael Brecker, Gil Evans and John Scofield). This is the line-up’s second album (they released For The Record in 2022) and they have toured together, so as you can imagine, it’s a tight line-up.
There are eight tunes, all composed or co-composed by Hamilton and Boylan. ‘Shinebox’ is a cracking opener, with a funk vamp played on bass and piano, and a hard, driving beat – the sound flows in a forward motion. The horns harmonize sweetly before Hamilton plays his solo, exhibiting excellent speed and control, his fast flurries punctuated by space.
On all numbers, he plays with open horn – there is no mute and certainly no use of effects or electronics to bolster the trumpet sound. Hamilton is a generous band leader, often comping rather than hogging the solo slot.
Boylan also solos on this number, laying down fat chords on the organ, and a series of sweeping, swirling lines. O’Connor plays the next solo on tenor, playing with power and fluidity and reminding this listener of Michael Brecker. ‘Sunday Morning’ is a midtempo number that has a swagger to its sound.
It’s dominated by the two horns, which double up on a hook that worms its way into your ear, and also engage in some neat call-and-response playing.
‘Stonky’ reminds me of a tune from the Bebop era. Boylan plays the playful theme in piano before sax and trumpet join in, doubling up and playing at breakneck speed. O’Connor and Boylan play solos which see the rhythm section switching to double-time part-way through – the transition is seamless.
Ginger was a much-loved cat, and ‘Ginger’s Hollow’ is a musical tribute to the pet, with a mournful theme and a sound that is dominated by Boylan’s Fender Rhodes. ‘Place At The Ace’ opens with a short, a sharp solo from Nussbaum. Boylan plays a circular, ascending riff on piano and the two horns lock together and wind their way through this spikey number.
It features more fine soloing from Hamilton and O’Connor. ‘Jason’s Dream’ was composed by Boylan in response to a family tragedy. Trumpet and sax play the sorrowful theme, Boylan, Hamilton and O’Connor play solos that are clearly from the heart, and all the band play with much feeling and sensitivity.
‘Lost In The Crowd’ is another tune where the two horns lock together on the theme. The midtempo tune includes Egan’s only solo spot on the album, and it’s well worth waiting for – supple, serene and superbly played.
The album ends on an upbeat feel, with the Latin-flavoured ‘Watch Those Eyes,’ which highlights the exciting, dynamic drumming of Nussbaum, who peppers the sound with inventive fills and an explosive solo. The music pulses with energy and dynamism, and it left me wishing I could see this superb band live.
In the meantime, this album is highly recommended to anyone who likes their jazz vibrant, exciting, and played by musicians who are clearly at the top of their game.