April 5th, 2012

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Jeff Hamilton Trio,
Red Sparkle

The Jeff Hamilton Trio’s latest album concludes with the subtle sounds of some chuckling in the studio. My guess is that the musicians left those few seconds of laughter on the recording to convey how much fun they had while making this sterling collection of swinging, straightahead jazz. The joy is evident in the music itself. Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Christoph Luty (bass) have a sublime rapport, and each is a gifted composer. They have worked together for 10 years, and they all are members of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. This combination of trio and big band experiences has allowed them to master the art of intelligently reacting to (and writing for) one another. The album’s title track, which was composed by Hamilton, roars along at a thrilling, breakneck pace before finishing up with a 30-second drum solo that artfully fades out. On this song, as well as a smile-inducing version of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya,” Hamilton demonstrates a playing style that is muscular yet concise. As a drummer/leader, Hamilton says a lot in a small amount of time, and then clears the way for his colleagues to shine. Hamilton tips his hat to former employer Ray Brown with a gorgeous rendition of “I Know You Oh So Well” that features stunning arco work from Luty. The bassist composed the CD’s closer, the elegant “In An Ellingtone,” featuring a melody and a playfully worded title that salute Duke Ellington. Hamilton and Hendelman co-wrote “Hat’s Dance,” which showcases the pianist’s marvelous right-hand work and conveys an intoxicating joie de vivre. One of the album’s most talked-about tracks—a graceful restructuring of the 1977 Stephen Bishop pop hit “On And On”—clocks in at 7:05 and proves that the source material for a fine piano trio ballad can come from just about anywhere.  

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