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  • Scott Hamilton (2011)

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    Scott Hamilton came to national and international attention in the mid-1970s, playing the tenor saxophone like a cross between Ben Webster and Zoot Sims, just as if John Coltrane had never existed.

    Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Scott dabbled with drums, piano and harmonica before settling on clarinet (the only instrument on which he has had any formal instruction) at age eight and ultimately saxophone at 16. Barely out of his teens, he'd impressed Roy Eldridge sufficiently on Scott's visits to Jimmy Ryan's on 52nd Street and on Roy's visits to Boston for Roy to invite Scott down to New York City permanently.

    Being something of a protégé of Roy's was no sinecure: Roy could be critical when necessary. But he did introduce Scott to a litany of jazz greats: Hank Jones, Anita O'Day, Vic Dickenson, Jo Jones, and the man with whom he opened his "Desert Island Jazz" show, Illinois Jacquet. Pianist John Bunch introduced Scott to Benny Goodman, and Scott worked with BG on and off for a few years.

    It was during this period that Scott formed his first quartet, with a trio of like-aged musicians. They were soon joined by John Bunch, who immediately became the old man of the group. Notwithstanding the difference in their ages, this quintet remained together for a decade or more. Scott had made a single recording on Famous Door as a leader (arranged by Bunch) when he signed to Concord Records. Three dozen years later, he has some 40 recordings as a leader on that same label.

    Carl Jefferson liked Scott's work so much that, in addition to recording him under Scott's own name, he had him appear with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Scott's fellow-Rhode Islander Dave McKenna, Tony Bennett, Ruby Braff and, perhaps most notably, Rosemary Clooney, with whom he seemed to have a particular affinity.

    Scott has been a resident of Europe for a decade or so, first in London and now in Italy. (When prompted with "I never thought you'd leave London", he replied "I never thought I'd leave New York.") Nevertheless, he returns to the United States a few times a year, fitting some filial obligations into a schedule of performances that runs the gamut from the tiny club to the large festival.

    Almost 40 years on, Scott is still playing as if John Coltrane had never existed. He's still in Ben Webster-Zoot Sims territory. But now you know that it's Scott Hamilton--there's no one quite like him.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Illinois Jacquet Flyin' Home: The Best of the Verve Years Las Vegas Blues Verve
    # 2 Illinois Jacquet Flyin' Home: The Best of the Verve Years Speedliner Verve
    # 3 Gene Ammons Jug Exactly Like You OJC
    # 4 Zoot Sims Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers Isn't It a Pity? OJC
    # 5 Al Cohn and Zoot Sims You 'N' Me The Opener Verve
    # 6 Don Byas Complete American Small Group Recordings Blue and Sentimental Definitive
    # 7 Ben Webster Big Ben Body and Soul Proper
    # 8 Stan Getz At Storyville Parker '51 Roost
    # 9 Coleman Hawkins Ken Burns Jazz Picasso Verve
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