Friday, March 19, 2010

After Hours

Scott Hamilton. Cherokee

No, not the figure skater; this is the sax player. Before the Marsalises, Hamilton was regarded as jazz's standard bearer. This was back in the late seventies when the old guard was dying out left and right. Yeah, it didn't work out so good. I think it has something to do with looks, because his playing is really nice. It's just that Hamilton, along with other fine tenor sax players like Eric Alexander and Chris Potter, just don't look like saxophonists. I've always thought they looked more like accountants or cops. Hamilton might be the squarest-looking guy this side of the late Michael Brecker. Anyhow, so last Friday's version of "Cherokee" was by Count Basie and featured Eddie Davis tearing it up on tenor sax. This version is quite different. It's much smaller, quieter and more under control. It's really pleasant. I mean, Hamilton is a great player. But I'm voting Basie for this one. Davis' playing is wild and crazy. It's exactly what this tune needs. Incidentally, "Cherokee" is one of the few jazz standards written by an Englishman. Ray Noble was a British bandleader who penned this tune. Its words are really dumb, but jazz guys gravitate toward the chord changes. Plus, they try to play it at maximum speed. That's always fun to hear.

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