Scott Hamilton & Friends
Across the Tracks
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2008, Volume 15, #5
Written by John Metzger
Wed May 28, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Having recorded some 40-odd albums in the past 30 years, itís safe to say that saxophonist Scott Hamilton has become something of an industry veteran. His latest effort Across the Tracks proves that his perseverance has paid-off handsomely. Not only has Hamiltonís approach matured quite nicely, but also, despite his prolific nature, he apparently still has quite a lot left to say.
Right from the start, itís clear that Across the Tracks looks backward rather than forward. In fact, as he has been throughout his career, Hamilton is rather unapologetic about this notion; naturally, thereís nary a hint of anything contemporary to be found on the set. Regardless, drummer Chuck Riggs keeps the rhythms graceful and loose, while organist Gene Ludwig and guitarist Duke Robillard combine to color the material with groovy, soul-jazz textures. Doug James also adds his baritone to a pair of cuts on Across the Tracks, which slightly broadens the sonic spectrum from which the band is working. Bathed in the warm glow of Hamiltonís passionate saxophone solos, the resulting music is smooth and polite but not in a bad way.
Thereís no question that Across the Tracks was designed to be as approachable as possible, and like a good pop album, it finds the balance it needs to succeed completely in its objectives. Its contents are so well-executed that even those who enjoy more complex arrangements will find it impossible to dismiss the collection out of hand. Essentially, Hamilton overcomes his lack of adventurousness by establishing moods that are ingratiating and infectious. The music undeniably is relaxed and comfortable, and it swings with an untethered, casual air. At the same time, though, thereís a fire that burns almost unassumingly deep inside the endeavor. As Across the Tracks progresses, the sparks and flames that have been ignited by the outfit slowly consume everything in their path.
From the somber yearning of Save Your Love for Me to the free-spirited joviality of Something for Red to a sublime cover of Duke Ellingtonís Cop Out, Hamilton gently pushes his band, and as the songsí melodies are tossed from musician to musician, his accompanists push right back. With his light touch, Robillard, in particular, is a perfect match for Hamilton, but in truth, the entire collective spins through the nine tunes on Across the Tracks with relative ease. This give-and-take ultimately elevates what could have been a rather mundane collection of material, and although it initially sounds quite innocuously pleasant, the set ultimately is proven to be addictive and moving.
Of Further Interest...
Across the Tracks is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box