Problem: You’ve got a function you need to supply a powerful swingin’ big band for, but you can only come up with the scratch to pay ten guys (and/or gals,) and a conductor. How ya gonna do it?
No problem, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Doug Hamilton. One listen to his new CD, Jazz Band, will have you thinking it’s 1956 and Basie’s got a new Hefti chart. Or Woody’s bringing out a new Bill Chase item from 1963. The amazing thing is that Doug’s got only ten folks at a time playing. And he’s got the secret of band expansion, too: counterpoint.
The contrapuntal lines that Hamilton seems to have learned from the likes of Bill Holman and Gil Evans can make seven horns sound like twelve. But Hamilton’s band has so much more to offer. First of all, it swings so sweetly it should be called "Ted Williams". Also, he has so many top-flight soloists that at the end of the CD you’re sure you’ve heard those twelve great musicians taking turns on solo duties. Well, chum, it’s actually about eight. That’s right - everyone in this group that solos throws off either sparks or mellow beauties, or both.
Favorites abound; the ultimate being tenorist Tedd Baker’s emotionally-charged take on Bill Evans’ "Very Early" (that one chart actually being arranged by Rick Wilkins - and it’s a beaut.) Freddie Hubbard’s (RIP) composition "Up Jumped Spring" is treated with style and class by leader Hamilton, who seems to have a love affair with its lovely waltz-time. Actually, on this piece Doug uses block voicing to emphasize Hubbard’s gorgeous use of more modern harmonic language. Craig Fraedrich’s trumpet solo is so melt-in-your-mouth buttery that he could accused and convicted on circumstantial evidence of pulling out his flugelhorn. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure from Jim Roberts’ guitar solo on the same piece that he’s heard Jim Hall a couple of times. There’s a glorious tutti section for horns in the middle of his plectral musings.
The tunes float through your head and heart: Cole Porter’s "I Love You" has rarely been treated so tenderly. "Oleo", Sonny Rollins’ classic, is superb. The title "Modal Blues" doesn’t lie.
Enough! Just buy it! Give Doug Hamilton the fame (and bucks) he deserves. Amen.
P.S. Great joke on "Styptic Pencil", Hamilton.