Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton is primarily known as a key interpreter of the jazz mainstream, the old songbook, before it even turned into bebop. Who better to record, mix and master this album of funky 1960s-style organ-guitar blues, than the original Blue Note Records sonic mastermind Rudy Van Gelder?
Hamilton grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and as a youngster was surprisingly influenced by blues guitarist Duke Robillard, who was also emerging from the same area. In recent years, Hamilton has been developing an organ-based combo sideline, particularly when making festival appearances, but it's unusual for him to record in this setting. Despite moving to New York, Hamilton did make an album with Robillard on Rounder Records in 1986, and the two have occasionally collaborated through the decades. The tenorman is presently settled in London town.
This quartet boasts the Duke himself on guitar, Gene Ludwig at the organ, Chuck Riggs on drums and Doug James guesting on fulsome baritone saxophone, sparring with the bandleader on two tracks. All sleeves are rolled up for a smoky (well, not any longer), greasy all-night session, clipping between fast-trotting groovers and seductively oozing ballads.
Hamilton's tone is as honeyed as ever, and the Robillard/Ludwig team ensure that the archetypal formula is realised in its paramount state. Yes, the band doesn't step outside this predictable set-up, but there are many worse ways to spend a retro listening hour. Nothing untoward happens, but the playing is pristine throughout, very slightly dirtied around the edges, but mostly seeping with sophistication. --Martin Longley
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