July 31, 2021

Scott Hamilton, elegant even tuning

Scott Hamilton, during the performance. / Oscar Esteban

The veteran Yankee saxophonist led an international and mixed quartet that raised ovations at a packed Bilbao Jazz Club

Oscar Cubillo

The concert of the saxophonist Scott Hamilton on Thursday at the Hotel Conde Duque, in the 28th year of the Bilbaína Jazz Club, was full to the last row. According to Pato’s accounts, at least
We have seen him seven times in this third millennium: in 2007, 2008, 2010, 12, 14, 17 and this one from 2019. Scott had always officiated serious and formal, laconic, elegant, and even distant. However, on Thursday we noticed him as closer and even distracted: sometimes he looked uncomfortable with the neck of the saxophone, he changed the reed of the mouthpiece on several occasions, he decided the repertoire on the fly (which is not bad, although looking at the sheet with some titles he commented “this is not professional”
he was seen in distress in at least three codas: in one he said “I can do better”, in another he stopped as if he lost the thread and the squires looked at him more attentively (this is what jazz improvisation entails) and in the last piece he skipped some notes, he did not reach a pair of treble, as perceived by Óscar Esteban.

Nonetheless,
it was a magnificent concert, with magical moments (at least four songs) and peppered with ovations for the different interventions. A couple of regular club watchers, like Marian, a drummer, said they got bored at times, which never ceases to amaze us. Hum… The Conde Duque’s living room is so long that if you stand back you lose perception, punch and emotion. For this reason, without being a precedent, we went to a concert half an hour before the time, to take a place.

It was a concert of
9 pieces in 80 minutes performed by the same quartet that has already recorded three albums: ‘La Rosita’ (2016), ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ (2017) and ‘Moon Mist’ (2018), all three on the Catalan label Blau. The protagonists were the leader and tenor saxophone Scott Hamilton (Providence, Rhode Island, 1954), with a jacket, a floral shirt that looked like paramecia, two cans of Red Bull at his feet, and a stool behind him to sit when he was not blowing; the American pianist Dena DeRose (Binghamton, New York, 1966), blonde, sympathetic and classical, who scored an exceptional sung theme attributed by them to Shirley Horn; the Catalan and professional double bass player since 1987 Ignasi González, a friend of the club, with his face always of effort in the interpretation but handicapped in his numerous solos by the insufficient volume of his instrument; and on drums were the German Jo Krause (Detmold, 1962), a professor at the Musikene Conservatory who played the whole time smiling and scored some literally masterful intercalated mini-solos.

DeRose (piano), González (double bass), Hamilton (tenor sax) and Krause (drums). /

Oscar Esteban

Before we went out to play, Scott was heard testing the sax in the adjoining room and we said, “He’s good even tuning.” Already on stage,
The quartet opened with swing, equalizing sound as they played solos on ‘If I Were a Bell’But by the second, ‘Russian Lullaby’, by Irving Berlin, from 1927, everything was settled and the formula dictated: melodies strongly marked by Hamilton and alternations with Dena’s ivories. “Buah,” a bystander was heard to say as he finished.

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the first culmination of the evening was the standard Ray Noble ‘Cherokee’, which started with a ballad introit with Hamilton with a red, congested face and a venous forehead, before drifting towards the swing during which the fragile tenor that night proved to be elegance personified (and here only the graceful and pizpireta pianist, she cheered before another spectacular solo by Jo Krause on the heads).

The ballad with airs of a night movie and neon reflected in the puddles ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ preceded another culmination, ‘I Just Found Out About Love (And I Like It)’, attributed to Shirley Horn although it is a standard,
an unusual theme in the jazz club as it was sung with class and power, luxury and sophistication, by Dana DeRose, who took us to a summer festival. A very good level had the blues marked ‘Blue Hodge’, endowed with the sensuality of the movie ‘Green Book’ and presented by the leader, who reported that it was composed by Gary McFarland for Johnny Hodges.

The two Yankees, Hamilton listening to DeRose. /

Oscar Esteban

Correct and after hours he was left with the ballad ‘Pure Imagination’ and the remarkable session ended with two other instantly recognized high peaks: ‘Sunny’, which revealed the jazz joy of the West Coast and that the subscriber knows above all for the sensational version of James Brown on an LP in a brief jazz combo, and in the encore, ‘The way you look tonight’, a fast swing very well arranged and identified in the first bar by Óscar Esteban, who said: «Finish with this is like ending a rock concert with ‘Johnny B Goode’ ”.

Despite how changed Scott Hamilton came, so distracted and almost prosaic,
It was a top-level concert and one that could only fault the first song (for the sound balancing on the fly), to the second ballad (for not being correct between so much level), and to the general equalization of the concert, with sax and drums sometimes standing out too much (the piano could have been heard louder and the Ignasi’s solos on double bass were dulled by the low volume, and we saw it all from the second row!).

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