© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
In the letter that accompanied a preview copy of the “terrific new CD: The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years,” Tom Burns, the owner-operator of Capri Records further explains that “Capri Records has made an arrangement with All Art Promotions in Japan to license the CD, which features drummer Jeff Hamilton and his working trio of over 10 years with Tamir Hendelman on piano and and Christoph Luty on bass. The release is a limited edition of just 2,500 copies, available only through the Capri via www.caprirecords.com and on Amazon.com. As with most of the Jeff Hamilton Trio releases, Great American Songs [subtitled “Through the Ages”] contains a potpourri of classic standards arranged brilliantly by members of the trio.”
Tom’s letter also contains the following comment from Jae Sinnett of WHRO Radio: "I'm not a huge fan of standard recordings these days but here are beautifully crafted standard compositions with thought provoking arrangements that swing, swing and swing. Tamir Hendelman’s arrangements play well into Jeff’s concept for putting a fresh take on the familiar."
I couldn’t agree more with Jae’s assessment as though you’ve heard these melodies many times before, Jeff, Tamir and Christoph make them feel new by playing Tenderly as a slow bossa nova or by having Christoph open The More I See You with a playing of its rarely heard verse as unaccompanied arco in a beautiful display of bowing technique before Tamir comes in and interprets this pretty ballad as a down home, medium tempo, bluesy tune with some of the funkiest piano soloing this side of Gene Harris and Les McCann.
They continue their distinctive interpretations of these Great American Songs by remaking It Could Happen To You into an uptempo burner on which Jeff Hamilton takes an extended solo in a manner that is very reminiscent of the late, Max Roach in that you can sing the melody in your head while Jeff is soloing. Not many drummers can solo off the melody while at the same time not completely obliterating it in a flurry of drumnistics.
Christoph is back with the verse on Someone to Watch Over Me, but this time he also plays the pre-chorus and does both in pizzicato before turning to arco for the last 8 bars over which Tamir plays the tune’s closing chords - and this is only the introduction to the tune!
There’s always so much going on with this group. It’s a trio but the arrangements are so elaborate and so well-thought out, you’d think the writing was for a big band.
The musicianship is phenomenal both in its execution and in its expression. This is timeless music played by a trio of musicians with skill and imagination equal to that of any and all of the great piano-bass-drums trios in Jazz history.
From another perspective, I always enjoy new interpretations from the Great American Songbook because they provide me with yet another opportunity to cross-reference them with Ted Gioia’s annotations in his classic and definitive The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [Oxford, 2012]. Here are some excerpts from Ted’s book about three tunes that appear on The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years,
- Someone to Watch Over Me p. 382 [Composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin]
“Ah, the power of the pentatonic scale. This sequence of notes—the easiest example for nonmusicians to find is the series of black notes on the piano—is arguably the most appealing and certainly the most universal melodic motif in human history. … Jazz, with its obsession with blues notes and the higher intervals of the scale, might seem resistant to such a simple device, yet many popular jazz standards draw strength from pentatonic melody lines. The opening of "Someone to Watch over Me" simply states the pentatonic scale—interestingly enough, Ellington uses the exact same phrase to open his "In a Sentimental Mood," only shifting the tonal center from major to minor.
It Could Happen to You, p. 203 [Composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyrics by Johnny Burke]
"It Could Happen to You" had the good fortune to arrive on the scene when jazz was still America's popular music. I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets a kick from the contrast between the upward movement of the melody and chords with lyrics that discuss a metaphorical falling (in love) along with real stumblings and tumblings. Even non-musicians probably pick up on this tension between words and music, if only subliminally. …
These early tracks present Van Heusen's song as a relaxed ballad—as do many pre-stereo jazz versions, such as those by Erroll Garner (1950), J. J. Johnson (1953), and Oscar Peterson (1955). Today, the tune is more often heard at a medium or medium-up tempo. Miles Davis played a key role in this new conception of the song, but Davis himself was probably influenced by a 45 rpm recording of "It Could Happen to You," seldom heard nowadays, made by pianist Ahmad Jamal for the Parrot label in 1954, which anticipates Miles's later approach.”
Falling in Love with Love pp. 111-112 [Composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart]
“... during the Swing Era, ... a typical jazz fan of the era could go night after night to clubs and dance halls without hearing the band perform a single piece in 3/4 time.
Richard Rodgers, to his credit, did his best to provide suitable waltz material for jazz performers. Back in 1932 he composed "Lover" …. Almost 30 years later, Rodgers was still at it, serving up "My Favorite Things" in The Sound of Music, which would become a vehicle for John Coltrane's modal explorations, although with more of a 6/8 feeling to the pulse than Rodgers's original 3/4.
"Falling in Love with Love" encountered a similar response. It failed to find jazz advocates for many years, …
In truth, there are bigger challenges here than the time signature. The phrases are heavily dependent on held tones and repeated notes, and the chord changes are not among the most inspired of Richard Rodgers's creations.
… Yet the song has one big advantage, albeit an intangible one. The tune seems to fall almost effortlessly into a groove and has produced a series of very swinging jazz performances over the years. …”
The following video features The More I See You track from The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years.
Why not pick up your own copy before they are all gone.
And, while you are at it, why not pick-up a copy of Ted Gioia's book too and make your own comparisons with other tunes from The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years.