Jeff Hamilton Trio- Quotes & Reviews

 

The Jeff Hamilton Trio – Red Sparkle

The music on Red Sparkle is effective Mainstream – by a working trio with at broad range of affections, from late-Basie to smoothed-out Monk, to ballads and Latin effusions. Hamilton is an immensely respected drummer, but occasionally he seems to play for sixteen or seventeen musicians. Hendelman seems unfazed by the accents and commentaries and nimbly picks his way through, melodically subtle yet forceful. Luty’s round bass sonorities are especially pleasing; he occupied my attention even when he wasn’t soloing. The session is nicely varied, but I would have wished for a less emphatic approach to the percussion section (although, in fairness, Hamilton is just right on “I Know You All Too Well,” and “On and On.” Reviewed by, Michael Steinman, CadenceMagazine.com. (July, August, September 2012)
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Another swinging and easy-on-the-ears album is Jeff Hamilton’s Red Sparkle. Named for Hamilton’s first drum set, the album features Hamilton (drums), Christoph Luty (bass) and Tamir Hendelman (piano). Traditional, tight trio performance. The band kicks off with a Hamilton original, Ain’t That A Peach, and continues to delight with Thelonious Monk’s Bye Ya, the thoughtful On and On, Johnny Mercer’s Too marvelous For Words and Laura among the total 10 tracks. This CD will find favor with those jazz buffs who like their music in a style reminiscent of the Sixties. Honest, swinging, toe-tapping jazz – as it should beReviewed by, Brian Hough, Tonight, www.IOL.co.za. (May 31, 2012)
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Unless you’re way out of touch, you know that the Jeff Hamilton Trio is the best small-jazz unit in today’s music world. Not long ago, that accolade applied to groups headed by Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Gene Harris … but since their passing, Hamilton’s trio stands alone. Hamilton is the elder statesman, approaching 60. It’s almost impossible to find a jazz artist or group with whom he hasn’t played and recorded. He’s the “Hamilton” who co-leads the Clayton/Hamilton Big Band, which has existed for many years (and remains one of the best jazz orchestras playing today). Earlier in his career, Hamilton worked with all three of the top trios mentioned above, along with Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme, Diana Krall and oh so many others. Note, in particular, the top vocalists mentioned; they’re a key indicator of his “tastefulness.” (Singers want to be supported, not overwhelmed.) Bassist Christoph Luty came to Los Angeles from Salt Lake City in 1990, so he could “play with the greats. He and Hamilton have worked with many of the same individuals and groups: a clear explanation for their close alliance. Tamir Hendleman, a prodigious, Israeli-born pianist, is the relative youngster in the trio; he joined in 2000. Once again, an examination of his career experience reveals a path closely allied with his trio colleagues; all three are members of the Clayton/Hamilton band, and have been members of various groups that have supported icon vocalists. What else do they have in common? They swing like crazy, yet  it’s “different” in a wonderful way. Their absolute control of their instruments produces a preciseness that is beyond the sound and “feel” possessed by other groups. That, in turn, grants their performance a relative “softness.” The 10 tracks here cover the jazz waterfront. Four are group originals: Hamilton contributed “Ain’t That a Peach” (a tribute to Snooky Young, who was part of the Clayton/Hamilton band for years) and “Red Sparkle” (the color of Jeff’s first drum set). Luty composed “In an Ellingtone,” and Hendleman and Hamilton produced “Hat’s Dance.” The rest of the menu consists of standards by Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Ray Brown and others. As arranged and delivered here, they’re all winners. This isn’t the first album by this trio, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And, like all the others, it’s a great keeper. Reviewed by, Ric Bang, JazzScan.com. (May 16, 2012)
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Don’t give up on the “straight ahead” approach to piano trio just yet. If the trend of ever-shifting time signatures that has cropped up in the last few years is feeling a bit too mathy for you, there’s a refreshing focus found in blues-based romps and instantly catchy melodies. Usually crisp, occasionally sassy and often stressing pith, this is the turf that Jeff Hamilton’s trio works on a regular basis. Red Sparkle picks up where 2009’s Symbiosis left off. Hamilton and associates pianist Tamir Hendelmen and bassist Christoph Luty – arrive with well-polished arrangements in their pockets, and breeze through them with a contagious oomph. A certain obviousness marks the leader’s work: There’s always a bit of tail-wagging going on in these tunes. But that has its perks, too. The hard bustle of “Too Marvelous For Words” may sound a tad anachronistic, but it generates an entertainment vibe that deserves cachet forever. Brushing his way through the piece, the drummer exudes grace and animation. The trio also likes to wax clever. Their romp through “Bye-Ya” alludes to rumba while keeping Thelonious Monk’s  ingenious counterpoint alive. Hendelman is a facile mechanic with a nice touch for dynamics. Hamilton himself knows about texture. His reclamation of Stephen Bishop’s schmaltzy “On and On” starts the same way Ed Blackwell’s might: a tender tom-tom pattern milking pulse for all it’s worth. The drummer never gets heavy-handed. A revered brush man, his nuances speak volumes. The first few moments of “A Sleepin’ Bee” – a curt exchange with Luty – set the tone for the entire track. Innovative it’s not, but when there’s this much finesse in the air, some kind of ground is being gained. Reviewed by, Jim Macnie, Reviews Downbeat.com. (June 2012)
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The Jeff Hamilton Trio’s latest album concludes with the subtle sounds of some chuckling in the studio. My guess is that the musicians left those few seconds of laughter on the recording to convey how much fun they had while making this sterling collection of swinging, straightahead jazz. The joy is evident in the music itself. Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Christoph Luty (bass) have a sublime rapport, and each is a gifted composer. They have worked together for 10 years, and they all are members of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. This combination of trio and big band experiences has allowed them to master the art of intelligently reacting to (and writing for) one another. The album’s title track, which was composed by Hamilton, roars along at a thrilling, breakneck pace before finishing up with a 30-second drum solo that artfully fades out. On this song, as well as a smile-inducing version of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya,” Hamilton demonstrates a playing style that is muscular yet concise. As a drummer/leader, Hamilton says a lot in a small amount of time, and then clears the way for his colleagues to shine. Hamilton tips his hat to former employer Ray Brown with a gorgeous rendition of “I Know You Oh So Well” that features stunning arco work from Luty. The bassist composed the CD’s closer, the elegant “In An Ellingtone,” featuring a melody and a playfully worded title that salute Duke Ellington. Hamilton and Hendelman co-wrote “Hat’s Dance,” which showcases the pianist’s marvelous right-hand work and conveys an intoxicating joie de vivre. One of the album’s most talked-about tracks—a graceful restructuring of the 1977 Stephen Bishop pop hit “On And On”—clocks in at 7:05 and proves that the source material for a fine piano trio ballad can come from just about anywhere. Reviewed by, Bobby Reed, DownBeat Editor’s Picks, Downbeat.com. (April 2012)
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After more than three decades as one of jazz’s elite drummers, Jeff Hamilton still plays with the enthusiasm and passion of a wide-eyed rookie. Whether he’s co-leading the Grammy-nominated Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, accompanying Diana Krall or leading his superlative trio, he embodies tasteful musicality and probing intelligence. Featuring his long-time band with bass virtuoso Christoph Luty and the prodigious Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman, his new Capri album Red Sparkle is the work of a master at the top of his game. After a decade together, the Jeff Hamilton Trio plays with the precision, poise and attention to detail one would expect from an ensemble led by a veteran who made his reputation with Oscar Peterson, Monty Alexander and Ray Brown. The album opens with “Ain’t That A Peach,” a sassy, loving tribute to Snooky Young, who passed away last May at the age of 92. In much the same way that the title was a Young catch phrase, Hamilton wove the tune together the piece from musical phrases associated with the great lead man, who anchored the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra trumpet section from its inception. Whether interpreting a modern jazz classic or a 1970s pop tune, the trio puts its own rhythmic stamp on every piece in its book. Hamilton’s arrangement of “Bye-Ya” sets Thelonious Monk’s Caribbean-inflected theme to a Brazilian groove, and he re-imagines Stephen Bishop’s 1977 hit “On and On” with the buoyant beat from Ahmad Jamal’s ineffably swinging “Poinciana,” a hat tip to the great New Orleans drummer Vernel Fournier. Reviewed by, Brian Lush, Jazzed and Blue, RockWired.com (March 4, 2012)
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A good jazz trio works best when the music is a conversation, a back-and-forth dialogue forged through great ears and familiarity. This disc, by veteran drummer and tastemaker Hamilton, has all the elements of great conversational jazz, due to the group’s 10 years together. With bassist Chris Luty and tasteful pianist Tamir Hendelman, Hamilton is able to be both a steady rock of a drummer, a brilliant soloist and a composer. The opener, “Ain’t That a Peach,” is Hamilton’s tribute to Snooky Young, a longtime member of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. It swings relentlessly but with taste, with Hendelman using a chordal rhythmic style that recalls Count Basie, while Luty and Hamilton lock into a perfect pocket. Monk’s “Bye Ya” gets a rougher treatment, but the overall focus, as is usual with Hamilton, is one of sophistication and taste. Other gems include a lush version of the movie theme, “Laura,” and the bopping title track. This recalls Oscar Peterson’s great trio work, and it doesn’t get much better. Reviewed by, Kyle O’Brien, Jazz Society Of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (March 2012)
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Red Sparkle, Jeff Hamilton trio featuring Tamir Hendelman, piano. Sometimes, I wonder if the classic piano trio format is fading. Then I’m buoyed when a record like this is released. It’s under Hamilton’s name, but it’s just as much about the sensational Hendelman as it is Hamilton, the drum wizard. The trio is rounded out with Christoph Luty, the greatly admired bass man. The album opens with a Gene Harris-like blues, “Ain’t That A Peach,” a favorite expression of the late trumpet master, Snooky Young. Next up is a rarely heard Monk opus, “Bye Ya,” and an album highlight to boot. A very lyrical and delicate “On And On” is a new piece of music for me, and Hendelman’s trippy, upbeat “Hat’s Dance” just feels good! Two selections with Johnny Mercer lyrics come next: outstanding, creative takes on “Too Marvelous For Words” and “Laura.” Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s “A Sleepin’ Bee” is a nifty feature for Luty’s bass, and Hamilton’s title tune, “Red Sparkle,” is a high flyer. Ray Brown’s “I Know You Oh So Well” is a ballad many listeners may remember from Brown’s years with Oscar Peterson, and the disc ends with a little wordplay on “In An Ellingtone,” Luty’s composition and a nicely spirited sign-off. I know the year is yet young, but this may well be my piano trio winner for 2012. It’s simply that good! Reviewed by, George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (March 2012)
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Jeff Hamilton has long-established himself as an elite jazz drummer building an impressive resume with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd and later as co-leader—with Grammy-award winning bassist John Clayton—of the Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. But leading a jazz trio has been Hamilton’s main focus for the past decade. Along with Christopher Luty—long-time member of the Clayton-Hamilton ensemble—and Israeli-born piano virtuoso Tamir Hendelman, the Jeff Hamilton Trio has been pumping out some of the best music in jazz today. Red Sparkle is the group’s fourth album and follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Symbiosis (Capri, 2009). Studio 4 (2006) and The Best Things Happen (2004), both on the Azica label, were the trio’s previous two albums. The original Hamilton composition “Ain’t That A Peach” starts the music rolling with swinging boppish flair. Borrowing from Thelonious Monk’s songbook, Hamilton takes the Caribbean-themed “Bye Ya” inserts some aggressive drumming and transforms the piece into a Brazilian-styled burner. One of the classic traditional tunes of the set is Hendelman’s “Hat’s Dance” featuring this piano man’s chops on the keys. Speedy drumming and superb bass lines from Luty paint a delicious new arrangement of that classic standard “Too Marvelous For Words.” Luty is also the main feature on the Ray Brown chart “I Know You Oh So Well.” With soft brush work from the leader, a delicate rhythm and gorgeous melodic lines, the group delivers a beautiful haunting rendition of the Raskin/Mercer immortal piece “Laura.” The title track is a Hamilton special featuring a fast-paced rhythm that captures the furious and sparkling drum work accompanied well by the pianists darting lines. In obvious reference to the great Duke Ellington, bassist Luty contributes the finale piece “In An Ellingtone,” a straight ahead swing with a clear Ellingtonesque flavor closing out the session in stylish fashion. When sampling the work of clearly, one of the finest trios around, there’s little doubt that what you will experience is going to be a pleasurable sound. Such is the case with this latest project by the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Red Sparkle is another winner, another compelling performance by the terrific trio of jazz, another gem of a recording that shines all over, a “Red Sparkle” of contemporary and modern jazz. Reviewed by, Edward Blanco, ejazznews.com. (February 29, 2012)
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When it comes to touch, taste, and a deep understanding of what makes a band swing, drummer Jeff Hamilton has no peers. Hamilton’s recordings with everybody from Diana Krall and Rosemary Clooney to his own co-led Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra have marked him as a paragon of class and groove, and his place as the defining brush player of his generation was cemented long ago, but his legacy in jazz may ultimately be related to his trio work. Hamilton, along with best buddy/bassist John Clayton, turned heads early in his career as part of pianist Monty Alexander’s trio, and his long stint with bassist Ray Brown’s group helped to create some of the finest trio documents put down on record in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Hamilton ultimately left Brown’s employ to focus on building a magical trio of his own, and his current outfit fits the bill. Pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty have been working with Hamilton for the past decade, and such earlier recordings as The Best Things Happen (Azica, 2004) and Symbiosis (Capri, 2009) serve as evidence of their compatibility. Red Sparkle, the trio’s sophomore effort for the Capri label, speaks further of the connection these three musicians have forged, as their ensemble artistry seems to deepen over time and age like fine wine. While Hamilton references Brown—directly through a performance of the bassist’s “I Know You So Well” that has Luty brandishing a bow, and indirectly through jubilant or bluesy originals like the drummer’s nod to the dearly departed trumpeter Snooky Young on “Ain’t That A Peach” and Luty’s tribute to Duke Ellington, “In An Ellingtone”—this trio moves beyond the musical scope of the late bassist’s band. Hamilton re-imagines Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya” as a tropically tinged Brazilian number, brings all kinds of hits, stops and solo breaks into “Too Marvelous For Words,” highlights Hendelman’s lush piano work and deft touch on “Laura,” and burns on the up-tempo title track, which ends with an excitable snare drum solo and shows off a harder-hitting Hamilton than usual. While it’s too early to tell if this group will serve as a template for threesomes of the future, they’re making beautiful music in the here-and-now that swings, soothes and leads to plenty of toe-tapping and head-nodding of the enthusiastic approval variety.  Reviewed by, Dan Bilawsky, AllAboutJazz.com. (February 20, 2012)
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A few decades ago, every young drummer dreamed of having a drum set finished in red sparkle. Jeff Hamilton was lucky enough to have one, and his memories of playing that set are so vivid that he calls the musical highlights of his life “red sparkle moments”. Red Sparkle is also the title of the latest album by the Jeff Hamilton Trio, and while the album sounds completely contemporary, the album notes and press release note several tracks, which relate to Hamilton’s life. “Ain’t That a Peach” is dedicated to the late trumpeter Snooky Young; “Hat’s Dance”, co-composed by Hamilton and pianist Tamir Hendelman, is dedicated to Hamilton’s mother; and “I Know You Oh So Well” is a composition by a Hamilton mentor, Ray Brown. The track list also includes bassist Christoph Luty’s original “In An Ellingtone”, Thelonious Monk’s “Bye-Ya” and versions of pop tunes ranging from Johnny Mercer’s “Too Marvelous For Words” to Steven Bishop’s “On and On”. That being said, “Red Sparkle” is not a dreary walk down memory lane, but an energetic recording with the trio in top form. From the thundering drum introduction to “Peach”, the band locks into a tight groove and never lets go. Hendelman has seemingly unending technique and a wealth of ideas, yet he never lets his technique overwhelm the music.  Luty gets a wondrously deep sound from his instrument and the clear recording of Luty’s bass and Hamilton’s hi-hat brings out the rhythmic synchronicity between these two musicians. Hamilton’s brushwork is a thing of beauty, implying all kinds of interior rhythms while propelling the group forward. And when he takes up his drumsticks, he is a fountain of energy. The title track features a remarkable dialogue between Hamilton and Hendelman where each man spurs the other on to greater musical heights. As usual with this group, the arrangements are well-crafted, allowing both structural unity and free-flowing improvisation. For example, “Hat’s Dance” has an extended break at the end of every solo chorus. Hendelman takes three choruses and each time that the break comes up, he uses it to establish the texture and style of the following chorus. Yet, through the common element of block chords, he makes the entire solo sound like a unified whole. “Too Marvelous For Words” lets all three musicians have a melody statement, and then offers solo room for the leader playing brushes against complex ensemble figures. Later in the track, Hamilton comes back on sticks for a powerful solo on tom-toms. On Harold Arlen’s “A Sleepin’ Bee”, Luty is featured through most of the arrangement, playing an intro with perfectly-executed triple stops, most of the melody in the first chorus, and a superbly-structured solo chorus with fine melodic ideas and strong rhythm. As usual for productions from Thomas Burns’ Capri label, the CD features high-quality sound, informative liner notes (here written by film historian and jazz fan Leonard Maltin) and attractive cover art. One missing element is the arranger credits, which have been provided to me by Mr. Hamilton: Hendelman wrote the chart for “Laura” and co-arranged “Hat’s Dance with Hamilton; Luty provided settings of “Ellingtone”, “Sleepin’ Bee”, “Too Marvelous” and “Oh So Well”, and Hamilton wrote the rest. Reviewed by,Thomas Cunniffe, JazzHistoryOnline.com. (February 2012)
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February 2012 is already shaping up into a jazz month with Jeff Hamilton Trio leading the way.  The trio’s February release, Red Sparkle offers melodic jazz played seamlessly on piano (Tamir Hendelman), double bass (Christoph Luty) and kit drums (Jeff Hamilton).  While there are no Coltrane or Davis covers on this recording, anyone who enjoys listening to those artists will feel equally at home listening to Red Sparkle. Certainly we are treated to jazz nostalgia with the classics “Laura,” “Sleepin’ Bee,” and “Too Marvelous for Words.”  And we are treated to a familiar rock song from ages ago, Stephen Bishop’s “On and On,” gone jazz of course. The album opens on an upbeat tempo with a Hamilton original “Ain’t That A Peach” and then drives harder on Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya.”  But these musicians aren’t going anywhere because they’ve just begun.  The musicians perform a heavily nuanced version of Bishop’s nostalgic song, then break out into wild man jazz on “Too Marvelous for Words,” where the musicians swing hard, taking quick turns at the spotlight.  However, having said that, it’s difficult to tell where each instrument ends and the next one begins because these musicians play as one unit.  This is one of the best musical marriages I’ve come across in years and a real joyful listen. For anyone who enjoys old-style jazz, let Red Sparkle act as your musical Valentine for this jazzy February. Reviewed by, Moon Child, wholemusicexp.blogspot.com. (February 3, 2012)
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Jeff Hamilton is the kind of drummer who, once you hear him play, you desperately want to turn on everybody to him. Listening to Hamilton is akin to hearing a prudent drummer who has mastered the complexities of drumming to such an extent that confidence is the foundation on which material action (drumming) stands, and is expressed here, never loud, with marble smoothness on Jeff Hamilton Trio – Red Sparkle. Simply put, this trio swings “Ain’t That A Peach”: they can’t help it anymore than a red sparkle can look green; thanks to some stylish rhythm patterns from Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman that firmly, but gracefully, draw the listener in to the trio’s warmth of excitement; and extends into the exotica of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya”. Hamilton likes to tell the story of his first “Red Sparkle drum set,” and growing up “playing drums along with his parents’ Oscar Peterson records.” That sparkle has added form and beauty to the millions of bandstand moments which have helped to shape him into one of the most exciting and complete drummers on the current jazz scene; able to augment the glow of Hendelman’s “On and On”. But Hendelman is certainly at his “swingin”’ best on his own composition “Hat’s Dance”, where he serves up tastelets of the cool “Canadian Sunset” swing of Eddie Heywood; classic-soaked slices of melody last heard from the incomparable Nat Cole Trio; and the cogent lyricism of the great Oscar Peterson. Like the main course in the middle of a sumptuous, succulent gastronomical feast, the Jeff Hamilton Trio embarks on three outstanding evergreens ”Laura” and Harold Arlen/Truman Capote’s popular “A Sleepin’ Bee.” “Too Marvelous For Words” is especially perfect for the trio, it has a memorable, swinging melody for which pianist Hendelman demonstrates distinct relish; and it comes with wonderful intervals for Hamilton and virtuoso bassist Christoph Luty to exploit with marvelous precision. Luty’s playing on “Laura” is thoughtful, resonant and imbues Hendelman’s searching melody with a depth of feeling that overlays the vulnerability of the lyric with added assurance. The interchange of ideas between Luty’s articulate bass and Hendleman’s gently swinging chords “A Sleepin’ Bee,” clear nice space for Hamilton’s suave brush work; a feature of his drumming talent that adds more harmonic sophistication the trio’s sound. Hamilton maintains that “with the trio you’re naked… everything is exposed and everything you do is heard by everyone,” This triptych of standards highlights the trio’s versatility and wide rhythmic appeal; but more acutely, it certainly negates any suggestion that these jazz music emperors, “have no clothes.” Hamilton takes time to include a dedication to his ‘Red sparkle’ drums on the title track “Red Sparkle”; reprising as closely as he might, the excitement, pride and joy that was his during those times when he enthusiastically accompanied his parents’ Oscar Peterson records – just listen to the way he ends the track. However, the most moving dedication “I Know You Oh So Well,” is reserved for the memory of the irrepressible bassist Ray Brown, with whom Hamilton enjoyed an especially important association. There is a palpable tenderness in the mood of the piece that is made more telling by the Luty’s baleful bowing, and then steady, pulsing bass; Luty demonstrates an inherent feel for the mood and mission of the trio, adding a tender, delicious “swing.” The tastefully colored “Red Sparkle” ends with a bit of bluesy mood of indigo “In An Ellingtone” composed by bassist Christoph Luty, which I would like to think was inspired by, and gives a nod to, Ellington’s innovative young master bassist Jimmy Blanton; simultaneously taking a look back at the giant who immortalized the words, “It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing”; providing the perfect mood for the trio to go out, as they came in… ‘swingin’ like they really mean it!’ Reviewed by C.J. Bond, JazMusic.com. (February 7, 2012)
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Veteran Drum Master Jeff Hamilton Releases Red Sparkle: A Definitive New Trio Statement on Capri:

After more than three decades as one of jazz’s elite drummers, Jeff Hamilton still plays with the enthusiasm and passion of a wide-eyed rookie. Whether he’s co-leading the Grammy-nominated Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, accompanying Diana Krall or leading his superlative trio, he embodies tasteful musicality and probing intelligence. Featuring his long-time band with bass virtuoso Christoph Luty and the prodigious Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman, his new Capri album Red Sparkle is the work of a master at the top of his game. The CD will be released on February 21. After a decade together, the Jeff Hamilton Trio plays with the precision, poise and attention to detail one would expect from an ensemble led by a veteran who made his reputation with Oscar Peterson, Monty Alexander and Ray Brown. The album opens with “Ain’t That A Peach,” a sassy, loving tribute to Snooky Young, who passed away last May at the age of 92. In much the same way that the title was a Young catch phrase, Hamilton wove the tune together the piece from musical phrases associated with the great lead man, who anchored the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra trumpet section from its inception. Whether interpreting a modern jazz classic or a 1970s pop tune, the trio puts its own rhythmic stamp on every piece in its book. Hamilton’s arrangement of “Bye-Ya” sets Thelonious Monk’s Caribbean-inflected theme to a Brazilian groove, and he re-imagines Stephen Bishop’s 1977 hit “On and On” with the buoyant beat from Ahmad Jamal’s ineffably swinging “Poinciana,” a hat tip to the great New Orleans drummer Vernel Fournier. Hamilton features Luty’s luscious bow work on Ray Brown’s gorgeous ballad “Oh So Well,” and Hendelman displays his ravishing touch on his arrangement of David Raksin’s haunting standard “Laura.” Luty contributes a stylish homage to the Maestro with “In An Ellingtone,” but the tune that embodies the album’s celebratory mood is Hamilton’s briskly swinging “Red Sparkle,” which he punctuates with melodic drum breaks. “The piece harkens back to my very first drum set,” Hamilton says. “I was so knocked out with it. When you get the down times on the road, you remember the Red Sparkle drum set you got to play. It’s become the term for the highs when the music is really happening, the red sparkle moments on the bandstand.” Hamilton has been providing red sparkle moments for jazz fans since the mid 1970s. Born in Richmond, Indiana, he grew up playing drums along with his parents’ Oscar Peterson records. Influenced by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, Philly Joe Jones and Shelly Manne, he got his first high profile gig in 1974 with the New Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, followed by a brief stint with Lionel Hampton’s Band. In 1975, he joined his best friend, bassist John Clayton, in a new, rapidly rising trio led by Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander. “John got me on Monty’s gig,” Hamilton says. “We had met at Indiana University and had an instant connection. When Monty hired John he mentioned that he also needed a drummer, and did he have any suggestions.”

Hamilton couldn’t pass up an opportunity to join Woody Herman, but after recording several albums with the Young Thundering Herd, he got another major break. Introduced by Clayton to bassist Ray Brown, he ended up replacing Shelly Manne in the L.A. Four, a popular group featuring Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida and saxophonist/flutist Bud Shank that recorded several Hamilton tunes and arrangements. After freelancing with a parade of jazz legends in the mid-80s, including Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, and Rosemary Clooney, he began his long tenure with the Ray Brown Trio (1988-95). When he left, it was to focus on leading his own trio. Over the years, Hamilton’s trio has served as a launching pad for a series of stellar musicians. The latest incarnation is no different, but the trio’s longevity has allowed the group to develop a depth of expression attained by jazz’s most accomplished combos. Luty, one of the busier young bassists in Los Angeles, impressed Hamilton the first time he heard him play. “He and I think alike so much regarding time and feel,” Hamilton says. “I thought it would be perfect to have him in the trio when Lynn Seaton left the band. He came in and I asked him what he wanted to play and he said ‘Anything, I’ve got the whole book down.’ He really has the passion for the music, to do all the homework.” Hendelman is part of a wave of brilliant Israeli musicians who have invigorated the US jazz scene over the past 20 years. The Promised Land’s bumper crop of improvisers hasn’t spilled over much to the West Coast yet, which is one reason why Hendelman is so conspicuous on the Southern California scene. The other reason is that he’s established himself as one of the region’s first-call accompanists, a player constantly sought out by world class vocalists, including Tierney Sutton, Roberta Gambarini, Jackie Ryan and Barbra Streisand, who featured him on her hit 2009 album One Night Only recorded live at the Village Vanguard. Like Luty, Hendelman is also a long-time member of the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and they’re featured on the acclaimed 2005 album Live at MCG (MCG Jazz). Since joining Hamilton, the trio has released The Best Things Happen and From Studio 4 (both on Azica), and their 2009 Capri debut Symbiosis. Part of what gives the trio its distinctive sound is the energy is that they’ve meshed so powerfully as CHJO rhyhm section. “Tamir, Christoph and I all think alike musically,” Hamilton says. “We all have a common goal, which is to make the other people in the group sound as good as they can.” Review in New England Entertainment Digest, jacneed.com. (February, 2012)
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As with the Symbiosis album that it follows, Red Sparkle is a Jeff Hamilton small combo setting where its drummer leader can make his presence known without having to be overbearing. That’s because he’s a master stylist behind the kit, whether he’s swinging on “Ain’t That A Peach” or “Too Marvelous For Words,” applying nifty brush work on the samba he made out of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya,” or executing a sublime light tom-tom and cymbal touch to a wonderfully re-imagining of Stephen Bishop’s old pop hit “On And On.” And then there’s the fun, hearty groove he lays down on the title cut and the funky, loose groove on “In An Ellingtone” that calls to mind another Hamilton drummer: Chico. As the co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Hamilton brings his big band sound with him with style and grace no matter the song. Once again supported handily by Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Christoph Luty (bass), Red Sparkle has everything in it we liked about Symbiosis. Reviewed by, S. Victor Aaron, Half Notes, SomethingElseReviews.com. (February 15, 2012)
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Jeff Hamilton is one of those empathetic and multi-talented drummers who is at home equally with a big band such as the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, a small group like the Oscar Peterson Trio, supporting jazz singer Diana Krall, or his own trio. It is in this last configuration that he demonstrates all his talents with his latest release Red Sparkle. This formation of the trio has been together for more than ten years and the cohesiveness they have developed over that period is evident. In the manner of the Oscar Peterson Trio for whom Hamilton was the drummer for a period, they build their musical rapport from a set arrangement for each tune, but one which offers a wide avenue for improvisation. This interpersonal style is evident with the lead tune “Ain’t That A Peach” which was written by Hamilton for “Snooky” Young who had been the backbone in the trumpet section of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra for 26 years. This track is a swinger with some big tone bass breaks. The Thelonious Monk piece “Bye Ya” provides the group with a chance to re-interpret the offering with a Latin stimulated time signature generated by some tasty brush work by Hamilton. The Stephen Bishop 1977 hit “On and On” is given a lovely lyrical reading with some sensitive piano from Tamir Hendelman. It is worth commenting on the contribution of Tamir Hendelman to the success of this trio. While he is Israeli-born, he has been working in the U.S. for over 20 years and has built a solid reputation not only as a featured player in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, but also as a sympathetic accompanist to a number of both jazz and pop singers. His own composition “Hat’s Dance” gives him an opportunity to deliver on this sprightly swinger in a musical partnership with Hamilton. Bassist Christoph Luty has been also been a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. While he may not be as well know as the other members of the trio, he nevertheless demonstrates great command of his instrument on “A Sleepin’ Bee” where the bass develops the melody. On the Ray Brown composition “I Know You Oh So Well” he shows his arco touch as his homage to the composer. The title track “Red Sparkle” refers to the color of Hamilton’s first drum set and is an up-tempo dazzler designed to display the talents of each member of the trio and captures Hamilton’s drum breaks to perfection. This is an exemplary disc from a highly disciplined yet communicative trio. Reviewed by, Pierre Giroux, Audiophile Audition, audaud.com. (February 14, 2012)
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Sparkle and explosive indeed! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jeff Hamilton is one of my favorite pivotal drummers for the jazz idiom.  The group has been together for a while and man, it shows!! Their symbiosis and control is something to be reckoned with. You have to appreciate this project as a true work of artistry between three musicians possessing uncanny instinctive musicality. Add to that their precise rhythmic articulation and voila……………..JAZZ ART in musical clothing. In music as in nature, there are hills and vales. These three masters are artists of genius who raise their art to such heights that we are able to breathe in their craft to a musical altitude and groove on it………….and then descend again to a more temperate harmonic-melodic level…………….Until the eruption of some combined group genius idea heaves us up to a new mountain peak as it were. Drama, expression, style, influence, and jubilation is my summation for this formidable jazz trio. Live on gentlemen. Reviewed by, George W. Carroll, The Musicians Ombusdman.
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The Jeff Hamilton Trio toured Europe four years ago and performed at the Porgy en Bess Jazz club (Terneuzen – The Netherlands), October 2008, featuring veteran jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton, piano player Tamir Hendelman and bass player Christoph Luty – a well remembered concert in this small famous jazz club. Recently this trio released an album entitled Red Sparkle, which brings back that sweet memory of this great concert. This Jeff Hamilton Trio was founded ten years ago and in 2004 it released its first album, entitled The Best Things Happen followed by albums like From Studio 4 – Cologne- Germany and Symbiosis.  Jeff Hamilton, born Richmond, Illinois, August 1953, started to play the piano as a kid, against his will, as he told Irene Lee for Jazz Times, but from the moment he heard Gene Krupa playing drums and Jo Jones on a Basie lp from his father, drumming fascinated him and when the Stan Kenton band visited Richmond, while on high school, featuring Buddy Rich on drums, he knew for sure: I want to be Buddy Rich …. He went to Indiana University for a few years, but started, before he finished it, to play in the Tommy Dorsey Ghost Band, also known as the New Tommy Dorsey band, founded after Dorsey passed away in November 1956.  John (Clayton) got me on Monty’s gig, Hamilton tells:  We had met at Indiana University and had an instant connection. When Monty hired John he mentioned that he also needed a drummer, and did he have any suggestions.  Jeff played for two years with Monty Alexander Trio (1975-1977), which would become the trio’s most succesfull years. This trio became extremely popular due to its 1976 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival. This successful trio played almost nightly for two years, before it was broken. Monty Alexander and his Trio revisited this famous trio in 2006 and visited Porgy en Bess November 2006 (with Monty Alexander at the piano – John Clayton double bass – Jeff Hamilton drums).  What a great concert! After he left the trio, Jeff joined the Woody Herman Big Band for one season and became a member of Laurindo Almeida – Bud Shank’s LA Four. His first album under his own name was released January, 1982, with Mark Murphy as the vocalist. Jeff accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney and was part of the Oscar Peterson Trio and worked with his friend John Clayton as part of the Clayton Brothers’ Quartet and the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Jeff is a drummer who loves to play in big bands, but also an expert in smaller groups and he knows how to handle the brushes. Tamir Hendelman surprised a few years ago with his second album Destinations, which got several Grammy nominations. He is a sought after accompanists for vocalists like Roberta Gambarini and Barbara Streisand. Christopher Luty is a member for years at the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. For me the opener, “Ain’t That a Peach” strikes the right chords. Jeff, Tamir and Christoph create a steady swinging beat, which reminds me to the best Oscar Peterson tradition. It’s a tribute to the legendary trumpet player Snooky Young who, in his 90s, recently passed away. Jeff played with Snooky, from the 1980s in several orchestra’s like Snooky’s own Sextet, with Bob Cooper, in the band of Gene Harris, but most of the times with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He labels, in the liner notes, Snooky as the backbone of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchesta for 26 years. The tune “Red Sparkle” refers to Jeff’s first drum set. I was so knocked out with it. When you get the down times on the road, you remember the Red Sparkle drum set you got to play. This first set became the symbol for the highlights on stage…the Red sparkle moments on the bandstand. Jeff Hamilton is a great drummer – a master of the brushes. One of the tunes that impressed me most is the standard “Too Marvelous For Words” in which Jeff, Tamir and Christoph show what an excellent musicians they actually are. And what about the great Monk composition “Bye Ya” or “A Sleepin’ Bee,” a tune that remembers me to a Sonet CD by the Art Farmer Septet with Red Mitchell on bass recorded in Stockholm 1974. One of those pearls on the album is the Stephen Bishop hit “On and On,” with the bouyant beat from Ahmad Jamal’s ineffably swinging Poinciana, a hat tip to the great New Orleans drummer Vernel Fournier, Jeff informs, in which all three musicians impress. The Red Sparkle album learns what a great drummer Jeff Hamilton is and this album, Red Sparkle he made with his trio, featuring Tamir Hendelman and Christoph Luty should be heard by every serious jazz lover. Reviewed by Hans Koert, Keepswinging@blogspot.com.(Sunday, April 8, 2012)
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Jeff Hamilton: Always in Good Time and in Good Taste

If you have an interest in Jazz drumming, Jeff Hamilton spoils you. He doesn’t follow a standard of excellence for good taste and drive in the drum chair; Jeff sets the standard. Jeff always comes to play and his playing is always superb. Nothing is thrown in or thrown away. With Jeff, every bar of music counts and every bar he plays is musical. One of the qualities that I admired in the work of Larry Bunker, the late drummer, vibraphonist and pianist, was that whatever the musical setting, Larry made a difference. When Larry replaced Chico Hamilton with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, the quartet became more hard-driving and forceful. He was trumpeter and composer Shorty Rogers drummer of choice in either a big band or a small group setting. “He makes things happen in the music,” said Shorty. When pianist Bill Evans was in Hollywood and looking for a replacement for drummer Paul Motian, the unanimous recommendation from the studio pros was Larry.  Bill later said of his year-and-a-half tenure with Larry: “His time was always so strong and his drumming so discriminating.” And when, Claire Fischer formed his big band, he said of Larry: “There was no other choice to fill the drum chair.  Larry is not just a drummer, he is a complete musician.” Jeff Hamilton is this kind of drummer. You never overlook him. Not because he draws attention to himself, but because of the attention he draws to the music at hand by his contributions to it. Woody Herman once said: “Davy Tough, Don Lamond and Jake Hanna all made my band their own, and so did Jeff Hamilton. That’s pretty damned good company.”

You can run but you can’t hide as the drummer is a piano, bass and drums trio. Many drummers overplay in such an intimate setting, but not Jeff who always brings the perfect blend of time-keeping, adding color and, when called upon, masterful solo interpretations to trios led by pianist Monty Alexander, bassist Ray Brown and his own group with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass. Drummers like Jeff make you proud to be associated with the instrument and we wanted to recognize and salute him on these pages with the following overview of his career as drawn from his website: www.hamiltonjazz.com. “Originality is what versatile drummer Jeff Hamilton brings to the groups he performs with and is one of the reasons why he is constantly in demand, whether he is recording or performing with his trio, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, the Clayton Brothers or co-leading the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. As well as recording and performing throughout the world, Jeff also teaches, arranges and composes. Jeff has received rave reviews for his dynamic drumming. David Badham of Jazz Journal International stated in his review of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra’s release, Heart and Soul (Capri): “This is one of the finest modern big band issues I’ve heard…This is undoubtedly due to Jeff Hamilton, a most driving and technically accomplished drummer.”

Jeff is equally at home in smaller formats. He is an integral part of the Clayton Brothers and Herb Wong stated in his review of their release, The Music (Capri), in JazzTimes: “Always evident is…the colorful work of the rhythm section featuring…the sensitivity and sizzle of Jeff Hamilton’s seasoned drums.” Leonard Feather of the Los Angeles Times described Jeff and his work with Oscar Peterson as “the Los Angeles-based drummer whose intelligent backing and spirited solo work met Peterson’s customarily high standards…” In his review of he Ray Brown Trio in the Denver Post, Jeff Bradley stated that Jeff “brought the crowd to its feet with his amazing hand-drumming, soft and understated yet as riveting and rewarding as any drum solo you’ve heard.” Born in Richmond, Indiana, Jeff grew up listening to his parent’s big band records and at the age of eight began playing drums along with Oscar Peterson records. He attended Indiana University and later studied with John von Ohlen. Jeff was influenced by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, “Philly” Joe Jones and Shelly Manne. In 1974, he got his first big break playing with the New Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He then joined Lionel Hampton’s Band until 1975 when he, along with bassist John Clayton, became members of the Monty Alexander Trio. He attained a childhood goal in 1977 when he joined Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd, with whom he made several recordings. In 1978, he was offered the position vacated by Shelly Manne in the L.A.4 with Ray Brown, Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida. He recorded six records with the L.A.4, some of which featured his own arrangements and compositions. From 1983 to 1987, Jeff performed with Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney and Monty Alexander. Jeff began his association with the Ray Brown Trio in 1988 and left in March 1995 to concentrate on his own trio. From 1999-2001, the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra was named the in-residence ensemble for the Hollywood Bowl Jazz series. Jeff is currently touring with his own Trio, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and Diana Krall. In addition to his many recordings with Ray Brown, Jeff has been on nearly 200 recordings with artists such as Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Milt Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme, John Pizzarelli, Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin, George Shearing, Dr. John, Clark Terry, Gene Harris, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Scott Hamilton, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Keely Smith, Bill Holman, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Mark Murphy. Jeff is a frequent guest of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. He also appeared in Natalie Cole’s Great Performances PBS special, “Unforgettable: and an Oscar Peterson documentary, “Life In The Key Of Oscar.” Reviewed by, Steven A. Cerra, JazzProfiles.blogspot.com. (May 12, 2012)
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The Jeff Hamilton Trio’s latest album entitled Red Sparkle from Capri Records, which was released Feb. 21, 2012, lives up to its name in every sense possible. With its sprightly arrangements and bubbly instrument play, this trio is composed of veteran drummer Hamilton, bass virtuoso Christoph Luty and Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman. They have played together for a decade but their seamless fusing as one will make listeners believe that they were born to play together. The opening track is entitled “Ain’t That a Peach.” It’s a jaunty and loving homage to the late trumpeter Snooky Young, who passed away last May at 92 years old. Hamiilton’s drumming is smooth as Hendelman’s precise piano stylings are light and airy in the background. The track is merry as Luty’s bass also plays faintly in the background, giving the track a slightly soulful tone. “Bye Ya,” is the album’s second track and it starts with rhythmic drum play from Hamilton, then Hendelman enters the melody with pleasing and catchy piano work. They blend together flawlessly and might make listeners envision hearing this during a movie where the lead character is taking a contented stroll down a garden path having just left a lovely encounter with a friend or lover. Throughout the track, Hamilton’s drumming comes to the forefront and at other times Hendelman’s piano takes center stage. Either way, listeners won’t be able to stop themselves from smiling at this joyous song. “Hat’s Dance” is the album’s fourth track with Hendelman’s piano at its source. The classic flow of this track could make listeners picture hearing it while they are eating dinner at a fancy restaurant. Luty’s bass is noticeable in the background giving the song a deeper tone at specific intervals. It’s also danceable if your sweetheart is inclined to sweep you onto the dance floor for some romantic slow dancing. The sixth track on the album is entitled “Laura.” It’s from renowned composer David Raksin, who has 100 movie scores and 300 television scores to his credit. This ballad begins with hauntingly slow piano play from Hendelman as Hamilton’s drums swish across the melody periodically in the background. Listeners could imagine a beautiful woman sauntering by, then disappearing from view as Hendelman’s piano playing pauses and trails off intermittently but then picks up again just as mysteriously. Luty’s bass is again dimly present in the background portraying added anonymity to the subject of the song. The eighth track is the title track. It’s a fitting title because it initiates with tribal-like drumming from Hamilton along with swift piano play from Hendelman. Then, both musicians begin a rapid barrage of notes on their individual instrument stepping up the song’s vivacity. The ninth track on Red Sparkle is entitled “I Know You Oh So Well.” It’s a track from famed double bassist Ray Brown. It starts with dainty and tempered piano work from Hendelman, then even softer drumming from Hamilton. In conclusion, the Jeff Hamilton Trio’s album Red Sparkle has an amalgamation of original tracks that are vibrant and fun combined with appropriate covers of songs from definitive jazz legends. Reviewed by, Sari Kent, CelebrityCafe.com (March 10, 2012)
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Jeff Hamilton Trio – RED SPARKLE: Jeff’s red-hot jazz drum work is so familiar here that it’s always a treat to hear something new from him – & this CD is no different… pure pleasure, especially on tunes like the opener, “Ain’t That A Peach“… all the players (Jeff on drums, Christoph Luty on bass & Tamir Hendelman on keyboards) shine like fire!  The drum intro on Monk’s “Bye’ Ya” is absolutely “on time”, & Jeff’s drums are a highlight throughout the tune… one thing that must be said about this trio is that they never try & “outdo” each other – most pleasant for the listener, ‘coz all you have to do is enJOY the music!  My personal favorite of the 10 tracks was “Hat’s Dance“, featuring some wonderful interplay between Jeff’s drums & Tamir’s piano… this excellent jazz trio gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99.  Get more information at Jeff’s Trio page.     Reviewed by, Rotcod Zzaj, RotcodZzaj.com. (2012)
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Red Sparkle – Quotes:

Leader’s rhythms flutter, swish, snap and crack in a sung, effervescent patter within this tightly knit, well traveled trio. Group’s hard swinging, middle-of-the-road center pretty, much belongs to Handelman, who delivers an agile take on the Peterson tradition. Not a lot of surprises, but style and authority are their own. John McDonough, The Hot Box, Downbeat.com. (June 2012)

Hamilton leads this taut trio from the kit through a mostly keen, swinging, no-nonsense set. With locked had runs, Hendelman is a bit flamboyant sometimes, but enjoyably so in this context. Top-shelf piano bar music is interrupted by “On And On,” a window on the ’70s I’d hoped would stay shut. John Corbett, The Hot Box, Downbeat.com. (June 2012)

Though Hamilton’s outlook is deeply conservative, his muscular, little-big-band approach to the piano trio builds a groove so deep you could get the bends coming up out of it. As on the previous album, pianist Tamir Hendleman is particularly emotive on ballads, in this case, one by the trio’s inspiration, Ray Brown, “I Know You Oh So Well.” Paul de Barros, The Hot Box, DownBeat.com. (June 2012)
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The Jeff Hamilton Trio – Symbiosis

Hamilton is one of jazz’s most melodic drummers. His sense of melody steers his rhythms, and you can hear tonality in everything he does, since he listens well to the melodic players. Here, with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass, he proves why he’s one of the most musically sophisticated drummers. He lets the melody, rather than the rhythm, steer the direction of the tunes. Hendelman, with his touch and flourish, brings an extra level of excitement on what are otherwise crisp and restrained arrangements. His bluesy solo on “You Make Me Feel So Young” kicks everything up a notch, and Hamilton shuffles along with it, building and attacking without ever going over the top. The title track, a piece by Claus Ogerman, shows that Hamilton isn’t afraid to stray into more modern territory. It’s an introspective tune, full of melancholy and rich chords, with Hamilton utilizing texture — brushes, cymbal touches, bowed bass, long notes and phrases — to great effect. The bowed bass and light Latin rhythm on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” gives new life to this classic, and Hamilton’s own “Samba De Martelo” is adventurous; the three sound bigger than they really are. It’s a fine drummer-led trio disc by one of the best. Reviewed by, Kyle O’Brien, Jazz Society of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (October, 2009)
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Drummer par excellence Hamilton has been “swinging” ensembles large and small for the past 3 decades.  He’s toured and recorded with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Milt Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme, and John Pizzarelli, and had a long, happy, musical relationship with bassist Ray Brown. He co-leads the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and leads this trio.  The first thing that stands out about this recording is how well the trio plays ballads.  Lionel Hampton’s “Midnight Sun” and Claus Ogerman’s tune that gives the CD its title come back to back.  The former features creative and melodic drum work while “Symbiosis” shines the spotlight on pianist Tamir Hendelman’s graceful and thoughtful playing. Bassist Christoph Luty offers an arrangement of Ray Brown’s lowdown “Blues for Junior.”  Hendelman’s two-handed solo work hearkens back to Phineas Newborn and Ray Byrant, joyous and “swinging.”  The only original tune is Hamilton’s “Samba De Martelo” and its Brazilian-feel and the leader’s wonderful brush and cymbal work is extremely satisfying (not to forget the pianist’s deftly turned-out solo.) The drum solo is quite tasty and melodic. There’s plenty of fine music and playing on “Symbiosis” and while a good portion of the material is familiar, the trio’s approach is fresh and, ultimately, pleasing. Reviewed by, Richard Kamins, HartfordCourant.com.(November 12, 2009)
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Jeff Hamilton’s presence as a drummer is pervasive both with his trio and as part of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra which he co-leads with bassist John Clayton. Hamilton’s reach as a drummer goes well beyond these two outfits, his history as a musician complementing Oscar Peterson, Warren Vache, and Phil Upchurch among others. Style and approach may have differed, but Hamilton let his drums signal captivating rhythmic signposts. The trio setting is a compact one. The interaction between Hamilton, Christoph Luty (bass), and Tamir Hendelman (piano) is facile and lights up the many moods that move from the intimate to the upbeat with facile ease. The ballads are warm and graceful, the link between the musicians made palpable by the emotion. And certainly, the empathy is in joyous evidence when they go out and swing. Hendelman fills “Symbiosis” with delicacy, his open, spaced notes falling in gentle splendor. He lends character and kindles warmth which Hamilton stirs to a higher plateau with his brushwork. The final stroke of grace on this beautifully crafted tune comes from the deeply intoned bowing of Luty. Miles Davis’ “The Serpent’s Tooth” sparkles in its array of invention. Changing timbre and pulse settle into a bop drive as Hendelman opens a river of mellifluously flowing ideas. Hamilton and Luty ride the tempest up close, the percussive kick of the former pegged by the jaunty picking of the latter. Hamilton proves his mettle as a composer with the Latin motifs of “Samba De Mertelo” that stirs up a gradual storm from the eddying circles of the piano. Hendelman expounds on the melody thrusting it forward and then drawing it inward, his interlocution now more open. Hamilton simmers raising the temperature to add another salivating layer on an irrepressible tune. The trio is sublime, sprightly, and inspired, the perfect ingredients for a most enjoyable CD. Reviewed by, Jerry D’Souza, AllAboutJazz.com. (December 2, 2009)
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Jeff Hamilton’s recordings have always been focused as straight-ahead and mainstream as your typical superhighway, with occasional time for rest stops, gassing up, and sleepovers. While always a good listen, Hamilton and his non-stop rotation of up-and-coming pianists and bassists never really pushed the envelope, staying the course set by his mentor, the late, great bassist Ray Brown, and other California-based coolsters. With Symbiosis, though, there’s a change in the weather with the addition of extraordinary young talent in pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty. This is not at all to say that Hamilton’s music had no fire, guts, or glory, but the difference in internal energy heard on this recording is noticeable. Hamilton is also playing brushes for the most part, instead of sticks, and he proves the finest exponent of that style of jazz performance since Ed Thigpen. There’s some truly extraordinary playing going on here, evident right off the bat on a two-fisted, bluesy take of the otherwise corny “You Make Me Feel So Young,” where the mellow mood is trumped by some deft key changes and interplay. Their version of the George Gershwin chestnut “Fascinating Rhythm” is loaded with multiple rhythm changes that seem telepathic but in fact are well rehearsed, while a hopped up take on the Miles Davis obscurity “The Serpent’s Tooth” is saturated with Hamilton’s fills and drum inserts as Hendelman and Luty jam away on the modified melody. The tour de force track is Hamilton’s original “Samba De Martelo,” as all three musicians take great poetic license and liberties in an amazing discourse that sounds free and improvised like most great jazz should, but is a virtuosic display of calculated, clean, and keen melodic sensibility that leaps out of the speakers — a truly impressive track. Luty likes to bow arco style as on the melody line of “Blues in the Night” or the intro of the light bossa nova version of “Polka Dots & Moonbeams,” while Hendelman is not only a marvelous performer and rising jazz star of the piano, but an original thinking man’s arranger who puts that stamp on half of the selections. Perhaps Hamilton has led bands as good, but not better than this, showing up in many real and important ways, especially upon repeat listenings. This recording comes heartily recommended, especially for skeptics who think the tried-and-true piano-bass-drums jazz trio has exhausted its possibilities. Reviewed by, Michael Nastos, AllMusic.com.
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No matter how good he is, a drummer usually is relegated to obscurity at the back of the stage, hidden behind the cymbals and faithfully keeping time for a spotlighted singer or a blaring horn section. Jeff Hamilton has done it all—literally taking a back seat to everyone from Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, Gene Harris and Oscar Peterson to Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Ernestine Anderson and Diana Krall. In the last 15 years or so, he also has found time to create some beautiful recordings of his own. “Symbiosis” continues that trend. Most recently, Hamilton has developed an incredible rapport with the wonderful bassist Christoph Luty and pianist Tamir Hendelman, a keyboard genius of under-recognized brilliance. Over a period of six or seven years, the three have achieved a level of interaction and virtuosity not heard since the days of the Harris/Brown/Hamilton triumvirate. “You Make Me Feel So Young” is a superb example, with Hamilton conducting a workshop on brush technique, alternately slowing down and accelerating for dramatic effect, with Luty and Hendelman in lockstep. Throughout the swinging opener, Hendelman ranges like a giant over the entire keyboard. A haunting “Midnight Sun” has Hamilton employing his bare hands on the snare, exchanging phrases with Luty’s lithe deep-throated bass and Hendelman’s delicate piano filigrees. For an extraordinarily beautiful piano trio ballad, look no further than the title track. “Symbiosis” is a typically romantic composition by Claus Ogerman on which Luty shows his expertise with a bow as Hendelman caresses the lovely melody and Hamilton tastefully seasons the performance with his consummate brushwork. Piano and bass state get funky with the familiar theme of “Fascinating Rhythm” while Hamilton alternates between brushes and sticks for a tour de force drumming demonstration. Ray Brown’s “Blues for Junior” pays homage to the late bassist with a typically soulful, swinging foray into the blues. Hendelman is especially impressive as he digs deeply into a relaxed, hesitation-style delivery. Luty opens “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” with a lovely arco solo before Hendelman states the melody and Hamilton creates a warm Latin groove, again on brushes. Remaining south of the border, the trio perform Hamilton’s snappy “Samba De Martelo.” As arranged by Luty, “Blues in the Night” is taken at a very slow tempo, giving Hamilton and company plenty of opportunities for dramatic interaction. Luty takes another stunning bowed solo. Hamilton finally pulls out the stops on Miles Davis’ “Serpent’s Tooth,” driving the trio with authority, changing gears and tempos at will and making the sticks fairly crackle with electricity. Reviewed by, Tom Ineck, BermanMusicFoundation.org. (2010)
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Jeff Hamilton knows that the secret to a good jazz trio is balance. With The Jeff Hamilton Trio, that balance swings delicately and smoothly through each musical passage, allowing Hamilton’s drums, Tamir Hendelman’s piano and Christoph Luty’s bass to flow easily and freely. On Symbiosis, the band’s debut for Capri Records, the trio delivers a lasting performance that sways with natural versatility, poise and eloquence. Making their way through up-tempo bebop, cool blues, inspiring ballads, and silky-smooth bossa nova, The Jeff Hamilton Trio impresses on nine vigorous, passionate tracks. Hamilton has long made tracks as one of the most celebrated drummers in modern jazz. He’s worked with Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Monty Alexander and Diana Krall and has been leading his trio since the early 1990s. This current incarnation has been operating for nearly a decade, with Hendelman, Hamilton’s Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra bandmate, joining in 2000. Symbiosis, which takes its name from a Claus Ogerman composition, is a wonderful gathering of tunes that showcases the talents of each member as they function as a unit. There’s close, true communication between each member of the trio, as no solo proves overpowering and no fill seems too rich or overcooked. Things get underway with a rousing rendition of “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Hamilton’s brush and cymbal work really shines here, laying down a tight and controlled foundation for Hendelman’s keys before switching to the sticks for something a little more impactful to provide a killer groove underneath the piano solo. The trio’s interplay rolls along through the slow and sensitive title track, offering bright percussion and a beautifully poignant turn from Hendelman. The Miles Davis piece “The Serpent’s Tooth” gets done up nicely with a Luty arrangement and a whole lot of fun drum work from Hamilton. His solo is meticulous and eloquent, making the absolute most out of his kit with a flurry of landing punches. Symbiosis showcases The Jeff Hamilton Jazz Trio at their very best. As they roll through these entertaining, warm, clever pieces of music, one gets the sense that theirs is a union that can’t be forced. There’s nothing put-on about the interplay and the style with which these musicians play. Each passage is fascinating and funky, swaying with a spirit of authenticity and raw swing. Reviewed by, Jordan Richardson, blogcritics.com. (October 30, 2009)
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This is a jazz trio that exhibits a considerable amount of mainstream jazz texture throughout its project. Jeff Hamilton is a formidable craftsman in his ability to make the ‘trap set his own’ as it were. He edges his sidemen on in something tantamount to a delightfully contrived positive artistic tension and mood resolving in cadential phrases that are essentially studies in gainful improvisation. Jeff’s drumming style can be described as an approach to drums that is capricious in manner…very personal… yet, very eloquent in its delivery. Might I suggest then that Jeff and his jazz trio instruct us in the vagaries of jazz in that the combined group produces an ether of spontaneous musical energy that must be reckoned with. So, please delight in this episodic passage of fine artistic delicacy… Very rich in content… luxuriantly harmonic and melodic… And, remarkably animated. Reviewed by, George Carroll, Cabaret Scenes, NightLifeExchange.com.
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Jeff Hamilton Trio/Symbiosis (Capri Records): Hamilton and his trio slip right into a groove at the beginning of their CD and while it’s nothing you haven’t heard before if you’re a jazz aficionado–a bluesy shuffled ornamented with sparkling piano sewn together with sinewy bass lines–it still impresses by the surety of the men’s work. Such authority becomes even less of a surprise when the group ventures into even more subtle and abstract realms, none of which are too far out but just enough so to effectively contrast the earthy core (and accompanying sense of humor) in their sound. Reviewed by, Doug Collette, GlideMagazine.com. (June 1, 2010)
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With tracks that are sentimental, exuberant, and consoling, The Jeff Hamilton Trio’s latest release Symbiosis from Capri Records exude a number of characteristics that touch human emotions. Produced by Hamilton, Symbiosis has an overall upbeat feel jeweled in Hamilton’s drums, Tamir Hendelman’s piano keys, and Christopher Luty’s bass. It is an album for all seasons and all types of folks. Eschewing the specifications that jazz trios adhere to, Hamilton’s trio can pass themselves off as a complete orchestra if they chose to with compositions that are full bodied and hark of swing-jazz hops and lavish ballroom décor. The delightful frills of the piano keys along “You Make Me Feel So Young” are nestled in lounging bass arcos and drumbeats which lay down the groundwork for the cozy feel of the balladry ruffles lining Lionel Hampton’s tune “Midnight Sun.” The sentimental mood of the trio’s rendition of Claus Ogerman’s melody “Symbiosis” covers the listener in soft, eloquently phrased swells and beckons a springy, swing-jazz propulsion in George Gershwin’s classic romp “Fascinating Rhythm.” The sexy curves which the trio puts on Ray Brown’s number “Blues For Junior” have a catchy rhythmic peddling, which strolls into elegantly feathered ringlets garnishing Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s minstrel “Polka Dots And Moonbeams.” The energetic, Latin-draped quakes of “Samba de Martello” written by Hamilton, are freckled in bold piano sprigs and flashing surges in the drum strikes. The bluesy lulling in the trio’s interpretation of Harold Arien’s sonnet “Blues In The Night” has a sensual stroking which heats up in their delivery of Miles Davis’ tune “The Serpent’s Tooth” mounted in fiery drum trembles that chase after the soaring keys of the piano vamps. The number has a dancehall style girdled in sophisticated quivers, which initiate a playfulness in the melodic phrases and stacks of rattling improvisations. The Jeff Hamilton Trio puts in dashes of harmonious tugging and coasting in their tracks keeping the songs active and malleable in their hands. The trio integrates their parts like a master chef integrates simple components to make a mouth-watering dish. Individually each instrument has a neutral glow, but when the parts are bridged together, the result metamorphosing into a grand montage with big band muscle. The trio’s rapport is inspiring and their dialogue is aurally melodic producing music with dancehall style and swing-jazz sophistication. Reviewed by, Susan Frances, JazzTimes.com. (October 21, 2009)
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Friday night, Churchill Grounds welcomes the Jeff Hamilton Trio, a dynamic group of musicians featuring the excitable Tamir Hendelman on piano, Christoph Luty on bass and, of course, Hamilton on drums. I’ve seen countless performances by these guys over the years at the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho, and the group has always brought thoughtful, exciting improvisations — and Hamilton’s omnipresent “I’ll play the melody on my kit” party trick — to each show. In September, Hamilton’s group issued Symbiosis, an album full of unexpected arrangements of standard jazz fare and a few original compositions. The drummer and pianist also helped out on the debut release by guitarist Graham Dechter, a fellow member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. While both CDs are very different — the latter presents Hamilton as an accompanist, and Symbiosis is the best of Hamilton in his element — the two discs should be viewed together as picture of Hamilton’s versatility, a snapshot of the drummer’s musical personality. Reviewed by, John Ross, JazzLanta.blogspot.com. (November 5, 2009)
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Miles Davis wrote “The Serpent’s Tooth” for a 1953 recording date he led featuring the enviable two-tenor lineup of Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. Unfortunately, neither tenor man was at his best that day, and MIles’ fine composition has not been covered much in the intervening years. Jeff Hamilton used it as the closing number on his trio CD, Symbiosis, and bassist Christoph Luty’s ingenious arrangement abruptly takes the tempo down to half-speed at the beginning of the bridge, only to gradually accelerate back to the original fast tempo in the first four bars of the final A section. While the tempo changes do not occur during the solos, the two appearances of the accelerating passage show just how well this group plays together. All three members of the group solo here. Pianist Tamir Hendelman gets the lion’s share (or serpent’s share?) with a dazzling solo that starts in straight-ahead bop style but moves in and out of more advanced harmonic territory. In his last chorus, Hendelman incorporates an exciting shout chorus to offset his improvised ideas and to offer a thrilling conclusion to his solo. Luty’s solo sticks in the bebop style and features stunningly articulated hornlike lines which most bass players wouldn’t dream of trying. Hamilton roars through his spots with rapid-fire movement between his toms and tenor drums. An excellent performance by one of the best mainstream groups in jazz today. Reviewed by, Thomas Cuniffe, Jazz.com.
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Drummer Jeff Hamilton has played in piano trios led by the likes of Oscar Peterson, Monty Alexander and Ray Brown, but here he leads his own trio. They have been playing together for several years and they are all members of the band co-led by Hamilton with John Clayton. As the leader of the trio, Jeff Hamilton might be expected to take a lot of the limelight, but in fact he stays in the background for much of the time. The result is a piano trio, which closely resembles other famous piano trios like those of Oscar Peterson, with the pianist assuming prominence and the drummer being allowed only a few moments of glory. This isn’t to imply that Jeff Hamilton is not an integral member of the group. He simply keeps his light under a bushel and doesn’t monopolize the CD. The result is virtually a conventional piano trio album, with a mixture of well-chosen jazz standards and lesser-known tunes like Claus Ogerman’s title-track and one original – “Samba de Martelo” by Jeff Hamilton. Jeff ensures that the music swings strongly, and the trio breathes new life into old songs like “Fascinating Rhythm” (note Jeff’s subtle use of brushes and the driving rhythm he sets up with bassist Christoph Luty) and “Midnight Sun” – a gorgeous tune that ought to be heard more often. On the latter, Hamilton provides rhythm by playing the drums with his hands instead of sticks. Jeff stays in the background for the title-track but he gets a solo with brushes on the dynamic “Fascinating Rhythm.” The trio lopes along in relaxed style on Ray Brown’s “Blues for Junior.” Tamir Hendelman’s piano solo here is very reminiscent of Oscar Peterson, while Christoph Luty’s walking bass does Ray Brown proud. Luty introduces “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” with an arco statement before Hendelman plays and develops the tune with deep sensitivity. Hamilton does a lot of soloing on his own “Samba de Martelo,” clearly reveling in the Latin rhythm. “Blues in the Night” features the bassist, who states the melody with his bow and then solos in the same way, ending with a long, flowery coda. Miles Davis’s “The Serpent’s Tooth” opens with a muscular solo from Jeff Hamilton. It is a speedy flag-waver, with a half-tempo middle eight and an accelerating last eight bars – but only in the first and last choruses. Jeff gets a chance to show off at the drums, which he does with aplomb. Drummers, pianists and bassists may be different animals but symbiosis means different organisms living together for their mutual benefit. Listeners can certainly benefit from the symbiosis between these three top-class musicians. Reviewed by, Tony Augarde, MusicWeb-International.com. (2009)
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While a drum solo is often the most exciting part of a jazz performance, the drummer’s ensemble playing is sometimes overlooked. Great ensemble drummers such as Sonny Payne, Mel Lewis, Art Blakey, Ed Thigpen, Elvin Jones, Winard Harper and Jeff Hamilton don’t just keep time with a certain flair, they elevate the band to greater rhythmic cohesion, swing and joy. Such is the feeling one gets while listening to “Symbiosis” (Capri), the Hamilton Trio’s latest effort. Longtime fans will immediately notice a similarity to pianist Oscar Peterson’s trios, a musical lineage that can be traced back through bassist Ray Brown’s trio with Hamilton and pianist Gene Harris. (Before forming his own trio, Brown was a longtime member of the Peterson group.) Hamilton, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty convey a similar sense of drive and overwhelming swing. And Hamilton unites the trio with fluid percussiveness. Even his solos and fills flow from the ensemble action; they’re never interruptive or off-the-topic as some drum solos are. “You Make Me Feel So Young” opens the set, followed by “Midnight Sun,” “Fascinating Rhythm” “Blues in the Night” and other familiar songs plus the Claus Ogerman-penned title tune – uplifting performances all the way. Reviewed by, Owen Cordle, NewsObserver.com. (November 15, 2009)
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The Jeff Hamilton Trio: Symbiosis (2009, Capri): Piano trio, led by the drummer better known for his role in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, currently the big band singers like Diana Krall routinely call on. The pianist here is Tamir Hendelman, with Christoph Luty on bass — two young musicians based in Los Angeles, possibly on their first records. Record includes one Hamilton original (a samba), the rest standards. Straightforward, snappy, enjoyable. TomHull.com, Best Of 2009. (December 14, 2009)
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Jeff Hamilton Trio Symbiosis: On the same date (September 22) that Capri Records issued Dechter’s album, so did they release one by the co-leader of the band he is a member of (and played on Dechter’s debut CD). Jeff Hamilton’s seasoned and highly nuanced drumming reflects three and a half decades playing for the likes of  Monty Alexander and Woody Herman. These days, he co-leads the aforementioned Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, but he puts on his trio face for Symbiosis. As the leader of a small combo that includes Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Christoph Luty (bass), Hamilton is selfless, much more interested in putting his cohorts in the best possible light. It’s the very thing that makes this CD such a good listen; you don’t get scads of boring drum solos, but he will get plenty of well-placed accents fills, breaks and just plain ol’ solid timekeeping. Hendelman, not Hamilton, gets most of the spotlight, and his sweeping, hard swinging Peterson style meshes perfectly with Hamilton’s personality. With eight of the nine selections being covers, the trio’s treatments are crisp and free of fluff. My favorite is Lionel Hamilton’s “Midnight Sun,” where the sophistication of the tune is fully realized thanks to Luty’s highly professional arrangement. Hamilton only takes significant solo time on his own “Samba De Martelo,” which is lively and intelligent, but not overdone. In fact, the entire record avoids being overdone, but well-done, instead. Jeff Hamilton’s trio is a crack unit on Symbiosis. Reviewed by, S. Victor Aaron, SomethingElseReviews.com. (January 9, 2010)
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