Irrespective of how many Scott Hamilton albums that you have in your collection, this latest album from the tenorist is a most worthy addition.

PX Records PXRCD1001

Scott Hamilton (tenor saxophone); John Pearce (piano); Dave Green (bass); Steve Brown (drums)

Recorded April 15-16th 2022

Another album from Scott Hamilton to add to his illustrious discography. No real surprises to report, a superbly swinging set of standards, and that is just the way it should be! Although that is perhaps not entirely fair as every release by Hamilton is full of little surprises, whether it be his choice of material, the musicians he plays with, and of course that wonderful sound that Scott coaxes from the tenor saxophone.

Hamilton has made a career out of playing in a mainstream style that has retained a validity and never seemingly going out of fashion, and this is as much down to the man himself as a keeper of the flame. When going to hear him live or listening to one of his many recordings, one never ceases to be amazed at his capacity for invention.

It doesn’t matter how familiar the repertoire, or even how many times you’ve heard him play a particular song, his performance is always mesmerising as if hearing it for the first time.

The tenor saxophonist has always found an audience in the UK and has been a firm favourite at the Pizza Express Live in Soho. With the venue launching its own label Hamilton is of course the right choice to have the honour of releasing the first album for the fledgling imprint.

For the occasion Scott assembled his regular quartet featuring John Pearce, Dave Green and Steve Brown and set about the evenings work as if oblivious of the tapes rolling. The music is so relaxed it is if we are eavesdropping on a conversation between old friends, and being privy to what being said at the two nights in April 2022 at the Pizza Express is our privilege indeed.

The magic begins on the very first number with the Latin jazz tune ‘The Breeze & I’, with the quartet easing into the piece in the most relaxed way. Immediately Scott’s tenor sound captivates, and the way he hangs onto the notes is sublime as the rhythm section ease onto a steady sing time that alternates with the Latin feel.

The straight ahead time feel takes precedence as the saxophonist begins his solo in earnest and giving us a masterclass in constructing an improvised solo. The lesson continues with an equally absorbing solo from pianist John Pearce.

In fact the whole performance is a masterclass in swinging and melodic jazz. Hamilton’s ballad playing is exhibited in a delightful reading of ‘Pure Imagination’ and if unsure of how to play the just take a listen to Gillespie’s ‘Blue ‘n’ Boogie’. By now the band and the audience are having a ball, with the saxophonist squeezing in a clever quotation on ‘The Girl From Ipanema’.

If pushed to choose a highlight from the set, I would draw attention to the lovely ‘Black Velvet’ by Illinois Jacquet. Perhaps better known under the title ‘Don’t Cha Go Away Mad’ complete with the addition of lyrics and recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney with whom Hamilton would tour and record for some fifteen years.

A tune not heard that often, Scott’s solo is a marvel, beautifully paced and constructed with that big warm tenor sound. The performance is also notable for excellent solos from John Pearce and bassist Dave Green.

Irrespective of how many Scott Hamilton albums that you have in your collection, this latest album from the tenorist is a most worthy addition.

Reviewed by Nick Lea