Duke Ellington recognized Jimmy Hamilton as both a talented clarinetist and composer and featured him extensively during his quarter century in the band. Swing Low Sweet Clarinet, a 1960 session for Everest, features the clarinetist leading a small group drawn primarily from Ellington's band, including tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, Booty Wood and Britt Woodman (heard on baritone horns instead of their usual trombones), bassist Aaron Bell, and drummer Sam Woodyard, while adding non-Ellington musicians Jimmy Rowles on piano, Dave Wells on baritone horn, and John Anderson on trumpet. It's not surprising that Hamilton draws from Ellington's vast repertoire, covering "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me," "In a Sentimental Mood," and the lesser-known ballad "I Didn't Know About You" but with fresh approaches, especially with his use of the three baritone horns to add warm backgrounds. Hamilton's off-center approach to the old chestnut "Ain't She Sweet" is anything but ordinary. His originals include the exotic "Tempo de Brazilia" and "Taj Mahal." The primary focus is on the leader in these brief arrangements, who delivers consistent lyrical and swinging solos, though there is plenty of solo space for Gonsalves, who obviously knows how to complement his longtime section mate in the Ellington orchestra. Long out of print, this LP will be somewhat difficult to find.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden