Jeff Hamilton's recordings have always been focused as straight-ahead and mainstream as your typical superhighway, with occasional time for rest stops, gassing up, and sleepovers. While always a good listen, Hamilton and his non-stop rotation of up-and-coming pianists and bassists never really pushed the envelope, staying the course set by his mentor, the late, great bassist Ray Brown, and other California-based coolsters. With Symbiosis, though, there's a change in the weather with the addition of extraordinary young talent in pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty. This is not at all to say that Hamilton's music had no fire, guts, or glory, but the difference in internal energy heard on this recording is noticeable.
Hamilton is also playing brushes for the most part, instead of sticks, and he proves the finest exponent of that style of jazz performance since Ed Thigpen. There's some truly extraordinary playing going on here, evident right off the bat on a two-fisted, bluesy take of the otherwise corny "You Make Me Feel So Young," where the mellow mood is trumped by some deft key changes and interplay. Their version of the George Gershwin chestnut "Fascinating Rhythm" is loaded with multiple rhythm changes that seem telepathic but in fact are well rehearsed, while a hopped up take on the Miles Davis obscurity "The Serpent's Tooth" is saturated with Hamilton's fills and drum inserts as Hendelman and Luty jam away on the modified melody. The tour de force track is Hamilton's original "Samba De Martelo," as all three musicians take great poetic license and liberties in an amazing discourse that sounds free and improvised like most great jazz should, but is a virtuosic display of calculated, clean, and keen melodic sensibility that leaps out of the speakers -- a truly impressive track.
Luty likes to bow arco style as on the melody line of "Blues in the Night" or the intro of the light bossa nova version of "Polka Dots & Moonbeams," while Hendelman is not only a marvelous performer and rising jazz star of the piano, but an original thinking man's arranger who puts that stamp on half of the selections. Perhaps Hamilton has led bands as good, but not better than this, showing up in many real and important ways, especially upon repeat listenings. This recording comes heartily recommended, especially for skeptics who think the tried-and-true piano-bass-drums jazz trio has exhausted its possibilities.
|You Make Me Feel So Young / Mack Gordon / Joseph Mydrow||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||5:36|
|Midnight Sun / Sonny Burke / Lionel Hampton||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||7:46|
|Symbiosis (Largo from 2nd Movement) / Claus Ogerman||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||6:08|
|Fascinating Rhythm / George Gershwin||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||5:08|
|Blues for Junior / Ray Brown||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||4:58|
|Polka Dots and Moonbeams / Johnny Burke / James Van Heusen||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||7:12|
|Samba de Martelo / Jeff Hamilton||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||6:31|
|Blues in the Night / Harold Arlen||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||7:35|
|The Serpent's Tooth / Miles Davis||Jeff Hamilton / The Jeff Hamilton Trio||6:29|