Scott Hamilton

From the Beginning

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Whoever decided to name '50s-style, small combo jazz "mainstream" did a disservice to saxophonists like Scott Hamilton. The word sounds safe and soulless. And while Hamilton will never be mistaken for John Coltrane, he's no throwback to some fondly remembered (and forgotten) era. From the Beginning combines the oddly titled Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who is Blowing Us No Ill from 1977 and Scott Hamilton, 2 from 1978. Hamilton's first Concord album predated the Young Lions by a couple of years, and must have seemed like a fresh breeze in the midst of the fusion meltdown. Both discs feature small combos with pianist Nat Pierce, bassist Monty Budwig, and drummer Jake Hanna. The two sets only part ways in one significant fashion: trumpeter Bill Berry joins the first set while guitarist Cal Collins joins the second. The first disc opens with a lovely take on "That's All." Set against Pierce's impressionistic backing, Hamilton patiently outlines the melody, filling each note with deep feeling. The band sparkles on Coleman Hawkins' "Stuffy," laying down a loose groove that allows abundant room for bright solos. An acoustic guitar riff pushes off "East of the Sun" on disc two, preparing the listener for 45 more minutes of radiant jazz. Once upon a time, a record buyer would've had to make a choice between Hamilton's excellent first and second albums, between an expressive trumpet and a dynamic guitar. Now, Concord has arranged it so that the listener need only make one purchase. From the Beginning serves as an excellent introduction to the warm tones of tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton.

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