Scott Hamilton and David Sánchez are two exceptional saxophonists with completely different styles and agendas and serve as excellent examples of the saxophone’s absolute versatility in getting a musical point across.
Scott Hamilton’s latest release Across the Tracks is the first full length album to feature his friend and colleague, Duke Robillard who adds a full jigger of blues to the album just by showing up; in fact, the way they play off each other on this record definitely adds a unique musical synchronicity, giving the sound its intuitive edge. Hamilton is a seasoned and widely respected player with an uncanny ability to channel vintage jazz influences into a current setting and is often compared to Lester Young, the brilliant and somewhat eccentric saxophonist often associated with Billie Holiday. (Interestingly, particularly in his younger years, Scott Hamilton also has a retro look himself and would look completely at home in the same era that his music hearkens back to. Think: handsome RAF pilot who also happens to play a smokin’ sax!)
The jazz here is definitely not fusion jazz and runs the risk of being called a ‘safe’ album in that there certainly isn’t a lot of high level experimentation going on; however, if you want a high quality, listener-friendly record that many people – including those who claim to hate jazz – will probably really like, this is for you. The band (Duke Robillard- guitar, Gene Ludwig – organ, Doug James – baritone sax for a couple of tracks and Chuck Riggs on drums) are inspired choices for back-up friends and produce bright, unapologetic swing-jazz with the blues laid right on top. Favourite tracks for me were: Something for Red, Deuces Wild and the lovely Sweet Slumber.Summary: If you like swing jazz, you’re going to love Scott Hamilton.
David Sánchez already has four Grammy awards to his name and a reputation for stellar sax work but the recently released Cultural Survival is a brave departure from his previous style. Cultural Survival is definitely a fusion album (Afro-Caribbean and Latin influences) but from the opening track it is clear that this is a record from someone who had done some serious introspection, both personally and musically. Sánchez notes that the record deals with “the human condition” and his phrasing – sometimes yearning and dark, other times almost furious – certainly reflects his struggle. (One of the tracks, The Forgotten Ones is dedicated to the people of New Orleans.) The addition of guitar but the restriction of piano to only a few tracks helps to create a totally different vibe and the resulting mix is strong and menacing. This is a spiritually deep work. My favourite tracks: Monk’s Mood a nod to Thelonious Monk and the haunting La Leyenda del Cañaveral. Summary: If you’re a Miles Davis fan and open-minded to new things or if you like fusion and you don’t know Sánchez, this is an album you should absolutely be spinning. Definitely not for the faint of heart, lunch with your great aunt or a long car journey with a jazz-hating friend.
David Sánchez tour dates are available on his website and he will be at the San Francisco Jazz festival on June 13.