Ed Hamilton

Planet Jazz

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Planet Jazz gives the impression that guitarist/keyboardist Ed Hamilton has sublimated more adventurous instincts to stay on target with his handlers' bid for mass appeal. Only occasionally does he hint at having a voice of his own: for example, when executing an unexpected turn of phrase in a high-speed run up the neck or in moments when his jazz, rock, and pop confections coalesce into glimmerings of a direction worthy of further exploration. Overall, though, the focus on this 1996 release is on sweet, hummable hooks rather than swinging improvisation. Still, on a couple of the 12 Hamilton originals here, the young Philadelphian impresses with some nice Wes Montgomery-inspired work. It's a pity there isn't more, because when he works in the fresh, mainstream vein of his "Life on the Edge" and "Curtis Blues," Hamilton is a credible and convincing jazz guitarist with fairly staggering chops. Hamilton's cohorts -- including bassists Charles Fambrough and Stanley Clarke, drummer Lenny White, and soprano saxophonist George Howard -- contribute crisp, professional, note-perfect parts. Trouble is they set up static, rather than organic, structures. As a result, Hamilton's impressively hook-laden writing simply becomes repetitious, rather than serving as the basis for the type of spontaneous development usually associated with the term "jazz." Hamilton has clearly come to the crossroads and picked (or had picked for him) the fork that points to potential commercial success (which may or may not come his way). If he later reconsiders, he won't be the first player to backtrack and pursue a more personal muse.

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