Arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Two days before he made this recording, Scott Hamilton was sounding uncharacteristically anxious on the telephone - he was explaining various things he had to do, none of them any more stressful than picking up his laundry or deciding what kind of portable CD player he wanted to buy. "And then," he said, getting to the heart of the matter, "I have to go to Hollywood and face twenty strings." Said that way, it sounded more like an appointment with a firing squad than the fulfillment of a desire he'd had for years.
I guess it's axiomatic that virtually all great jazz musicians, especially horn players, yearn to make string albums. Ever since Charlie Parker's "Just Friends" magisterially redefined the notion of what sort of background suited a jazz soloist, string albums have appeared by Cannonball Adderley, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz (three times). Ben Webster (three times), Clifford Brown, Johnny Hodges, Warren Vache, Phil Woods, and Paul Desmond, among others. All of these are very good, and some of them are great. Scoff wanted to make an album that would stand up to the best of these, and he wanted to do it the right way, by choosing some of his favorite ballads and playing them live in the studio with the string players, with no overdubs or laid-in tracks. When earl Jefferson invited him to Hollywood for the fifth and sixth of October, 1992, Scott must have felt like a gifted and popular young RSC actor who learns that he's getting the lead in Hamlet.
There would have been an additional reason for pre-performance jitters. All jazz involves an intense degree of collaboration, but in albums with strings the soloist's collaborator is not his actual sidemen, the men and women staring at their music stands and wielding their bows, but the arranger. Scott had decided tastes in arrangers, and earl Jefferson had paired him with someone he knew chiefly as a piano player. I don't think Scott knew what to expect when he walked into the studio and met Alan Broadbent in front of all those violinists. But I bet that two or three minutes into their first take, he was leaning backwards with his eyes closed, playing magnificently, both reassured and inspired by the amazing sounds coming from the orchestra. Scott is a very quick study, and it wouldn't have taken him any longer than a chorus or two to understand that Alan Broadbent had given him some of the most beautiful arrangements ever to appear on any soloist-with-strings recording.
When Scott got back to New York, I asked him how things had gone. Normally, Scott responds to dumb questions like this with a noncommittal evasion like "I suppose it was okay." This time, he was euphoric - he had loved the date. He was full of praise for the depth and originality of Alan Broadbent's arrangements, and it was clear that he was still hearing them in his head.
Now we can all hear what came to Scoff Hamilton through his headphones, and listen to the way he responded to it. Throughout this recording, Scott Hamilton plays at the absolute top of his form. He says that the best thing on the album is Broadbent's arrangement of the verse to Young and Foolish, but I want to point out the eloquent authority with which he delivers the melody of every song here and the intensity of his soloing, especially on Goodbye Mr. Evans, The Look of Love, Tile Shining Sea, and Young and Foolish. He plays these melodies as freshly as if they'd never been played before, renewing their luxurious romanticism, tender regret, and sorrow by singing them with the flawless intelligence and grace of Nat Cole or Frank Sinatra; and then, as Broadbent's strings dart and hover, burnishing a chord before blissfully expanding it, touching the melody and swooping away from it, Scott Hamilton instinctively executes the essential miracle of jazz music by moving inside the song and cracking it open to let us know what it would say if it were given the power magically to recreate itself as passionately and expressively as possible.
Scott says that Alan Broadbent's writing gets even better the more he hears it, and anyone who buys this recording will discover that the same is true for his own part in it. Scon Hamilton With Strings represents a kind of perfection, and I can't imagine anyone ever making a better record of this kind.