Jazz CD Reviews

Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton – ‘Round Midnight – Challenge Records

Double your pleasure, double your fun…

Published on November 3, 2012

Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton – ‘Round Midnight – Challenge Records

Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton – ‘Round Midnight – Challenge Records CR73348, 66:24 ****½:

(Harry Allen, and Scott Hamilton, tenor sax; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Joel Forbes, bass; Chuck Riggs, drums)

Although born twelve years apart, Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen are in many ways kindred brothers. They both went against the grain during the period of time when the young lions of jazz were exploring post-bop jazz idioms. Harry and Scott fit firmly into the mold of old school saxophonists more so than most any other tenor saxophonists born since the 1950s. Scott came first and was welcomed by fans of mainstream jazz who missed the stylings of Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, and Ben Webster. While in his 20s, Scott kept alive the tradition. A decade later Harry Allen arrived and the small group swing revival had another acolyte. Both musicians embraced the classic tenor sax men of the 1930s to 1950s.

Their first well known recording together was Heavy Juice on Concord Records in 2004. Their style of blowing was featured on CDs on Concord (Scott’s label for many years), and on Arbors Records, who concentrated on honoring the Great American Songbook.

Both men have a complementary blend that is so pleasing to the ear. There is a relaxed swing, and a simpatico trade-off of phrases that shows their meetings are not “cutting sessions” but a meeting of the minds exploring standards and mostly well known compositions. Their rhythm section on this CD is top notch, and special mention should be made of the sparkling and warm accompaniment of pianist, Rossano Sportiello. When Hamilton and Allen, are not emoting either alone or together, Sportiello is right there with swinging solos and fills.

Every track has winning moments and there is no filler here. Personal favorites are “My Melancholy Baby,” the upbeat “Great Scott”, “Lover,” and a super version of Neil Hefti’s “Flight of the Foo Birds.”

Lately, Scott and Harry have been touring in a quintet. Seeing the two tenors honoring the giants of mainstream saxophone (Webster, Young, Getz, et. al) is an opportunity that should not be passed up. Their CD, “Round Midnight” will have to suffice if they don’t play in your home state. Highly recommended…

TrackList: My Melancholy Baby, Great Scott, How Am I to Know, The Opener, Baubles, Bangles, and Beads, Hey Lock!, Lover, Flight of the Foo Birds, ‘Round Midnight

—Jeff Krow




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