Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton 'Round Midnight Challenge Records 2012

Some reviews write themselves...sometimes a "review" in the very strictest of terms is unnecessary as you honor genius, you don't review it.

Granted a critic needs to tread lightly around words such as "brilliant" and "genius" but when it comes to the straight ahead scene you would be hard pressed to find two players that work as well together as Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton and their latest effort 'Round Midnight is a musical testament to the fact some things just never go out of style.

Musical frames of reference can also be inherently dangerous in the hands of an amateur. While Allen & Hamilton have developed their own very distinctive styles one can not help but be reminded of saxophone giants including Zoot Sims and Ben Webster or perhaps Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & Johnny Griffin. The band on this recording session is rounded out with Rossano Sportiello on piano and the rhythm section is filled out with the fabulous Joel Forbes on bass and Chuck Riggs on drums.

A perfect pair. Keeping swing tenor alive while still cutting new lyrical ground is the cornerstone of this release as both Allen & Hamilton seem to complete each other while neither takes over as the session leader. "My Melancholy Baby" opens the release with a dazzling display from pianist Sportiello Harry Allen does solo first and leads off the trade offs and at times it does take a keen ear to decipher the difference in styles. "How Am I To Know" is a somewhat obscure Billie Holiday tune set to a Count Basie type groove and Hamilton takes the zen like approach to his solo where less is more and no notes are wasted. A particularly impressive tune is 'The Opener" which is a Bill Potts tune originally penned for a release by  Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. The changes are inspired by the tune "Jada" which Sonny Rollins took his riff on came up with "Doxy." This blistering version shows both Allen & Hamilton in rare form. There is only one ballad on this release that being a stellar version of the title track "'Round Midnight."

Swing tenor is alive and well with 'Round Midnight a tour de force of the very best in swing!

Tracks: My Melancholy Baby; Great Scott; How Am I To Know; The Opener; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Hey Lock; Lover; Flight Of The Foo Birds; 'Round Midnight.

Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Scott Hamilton: tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello: piano; Joel Forbes: bass; Chuck Riggs: drums.