Friday, February 24, 2012


When jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton puts out an album with his trio or with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, expectations are high. His street credibility was established long ago, playing with jazz kingpins Tommy Dorsey, Oscar Peterson, and Ray Brown. Not bad company when learning how to stretch out and swing. 

 “Red Sparkle” is Hamilton’s marvelous new trio album on Capri Records Ltd., and here he exceeds expectations. (So far this year, “Red Sparkle” is the finest jazz album I’ve come across.) 

 “Red Sparkle” opens with a burner “Ain’t That A Peach”. Clearly Hamilton isn’t the kind of boss who rules with an iron fist. He gives piano player Tamir Hendelman, and bass player Christoph Luty carte blanche.

Hendleman takes the up-tempo songs “Hat’s Dance,” “Too Marvelous For Words,” and “In An Ellingtone” on an improvisational joyride. Hendelman is a confident piano player who races across the piano like Bud Powell used to. Hendleman has the strongest presence on “Red Sparkle”. On ballads, he plays softly like feathers landing on snow. 

 Hamilton also plays some good solos. For example, On “Bye Ya,” he plays as if Shelly Manne’s and Gene Krupa’s—his boyhood idols—spirits are inside his drum kit. 

 “Red Sparkle” is heavy with up-tempo songs, but the guys come up for air on the baby making slow jams “On and On” and “I Know You So Well”.

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