In the fourth decade of a jazz career in which he has always made a subtle art sound easy, US saxophonist still caresses old standards with the same urbane ecstasy he always has. In its hip-hop or contemporary-classical borrowings, free-improv extremes or north European minimalist whisperings, jazz is now a very different music to the sleek, swinging one Hamilton absorbed from his dad’s records as a boy. But nobody can accuse Hamilton of living in the past: it would be like telling someone they shouldn’t still be in love with a fascinating old partner.
Tenor Scott Hamilton hit the scene on the 70s, playing in the classic style of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. In 1977, he recorded his debut album for Concord Records, with whom he would have a long recording career. Hamilton formed his own quintet in the early 1980s and developed a style that was very much his own. Backed by Rossano Sportiello on piano, Hassan Shakur on bass and Chuck Riggs on drums, this set from Smalls Live is one of Hamilton's best.
Starting in the late '50s, Gerry Mulligan recorded a series of encounters with fellow saxophonists that included such immortals as Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster. In 1986 he resumed the practice for this one date on which his baritone is matched with the tenor of the young great Scott Hamilton. The music, which includes warm ballads and fairly hot romps (five of the seven songs are Mulligan originals), consistently swing and are quite enjoyable.