Scott Hamilton, Classics Review
by Jeff Becker
Scott Hamilton has compiled a swinging rhythm section to deliver a delightful and creative program of well-known themes from the classical repertoire – reimagined and repurposed for a jazz quartet titled Classics. Hamilton’s big tenor saxophone fronts the rhythm section of Jan Lundgren on piano, Hans Backenroth on bass, and Kristian Leth on drums. The compositions the ensemble selected for this session are tastefully renovated and cleverly retitled. Some song titles are accessible to “decode” (My Reverie, based on Claude Debussy’s ‘Reverie’), while others are delightfully playful in their rebranding: Moon Love (based on Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony) and Humoresque (Antonin Dvorak). Hamilton has incorporated the classical theme with the spirit of jazz so elegantly that the other titles might as well be from Broadway shows: “I Think of You,” “The Lamp Is Low,” “If You Are But A Dream,” and “Yours Is My Heart Alone.”
“The Lamp Is Low,” given a relaxed bossa nova feel, is based on Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. Hamilton’s tenor tone is rich in texture and buzzes with excitement. The quartet builds a feel that Hamilton digs into for his solo. He focuses on melodic development while still making his harmonic choices very clear. Jazz-meets-classical music is rich and nearly as old as Jazz music itself. Here the ensemble brings these two worlds together in a beautifully structured arrangement that keeps the integrity of both styles.
“My Reverie” brings Hamilton’s warm, lush tonal language and pulls out new life into the theme of Claude Debussy’s “Reverie.” Most people have heard the original classical version, and Hamilton and company perform a fascinatingly fresh approach filled with outstanding jazz musicianship. Over time, artists get to know their audience and their expectations. Hamilton has a clear picture of how most jazz fans enjoy the classics, and combining them is a winning approach.
In Classics, Hamilton demonstrates he can give his fans what they want while gently stretching their angles and experiences. Hamilton and his quartet manage to do that on this album in a manner that has elegance and is still deeply rooted in jazz.