LJF 2017: Scott Hamilton Quartet

Leon Nock sees Scott Hamilton's debut at the London Jazz Festival at The Other Palace and revels in his smooth and honk-free tenor

It’s a reasonable assumption that a good 90 per cent of everyone reading this will have seen Scott Hamilton (pictured right) live at least once and very possibly several times given that the American tenor player has been a frequent, welcome, and hugely popular visitor to these shores since what seems like Mafeking Night.

Nothing wrong with that of course, the jazz scene can always use a tad more class and style but it does leave your reviewer feeling like the last rookie newshound to file a report on the Second Coming.

However, nothing if not lion-hearted I remind myself that I am, in actuality, covering a specific performance, a one-off gig as a minor cog in a great big wheel. This leaves me free to sidle up to the sounds and describe the venue – The Other Palace, a relatively new theatre in Victoria, and specifically the Studio space, two floors down, intimate, well-appointed and the ideal spot to bask in chamber jazz groups – and the occasion - one small part of this year’s London Jazz Festival – neither of which Hamilton has ever played before.

Circling the man himself I approach via his sidemen, all definitely out of the right bottle: Dave Green, bass, Steve Brown, drums and John Pearce, piano. This means that in the space of three days I have heard not one but two great piano players, Bill Charlap on Friday and John Pearce on Sunday, better than that it doesn’t get. Even now we are not done because after the interval we were introduced to Alexander Bone, a recent winner of the BBC's young muso of the year, who played one number with the trio and then brought his alto back to the stand to join in the finale.

And so to the star himself, Mr. Scott Hamilton. Suffice to say he was everything his reputation trumpets and more. To pick an adjective at random he was superb and his choice of standards complemented his smooth, honk-free sound. For the second time in one weekend I had the feeling I was time-travelling back to the 1950s, the last decade in which real, fusion-free jazz flourished. A great night from a great instrumentalist and a really great quartet.

Photo by Brian Payne

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