Remembering Billie, is something of a magnum opus, from an artist who is at a place in his illustrious career where a magnum opus is just what is needed to top so many previous glorious albums. This one — a tribute to the early, more freely swinging recordings of the inimitable Billie Holiday, is played with equally matchless style by saxophonist Scott Hamilton. The album, produced by Duke Robillard, displays the versatility and impeccable taste that Hamilton has been sharing for decades.
Scott Hamilton has recorded over 30 albums, with many of the greats of mainstream jazz, including several albums with Rosemary Clooney (and he even had a guest spot on Bing Crosby’s final recording). The obvious good time he has on these tracks is hardly surprising; what jazz tenor sax player wouldn’t jump at the chance to lay down his own take on classic tunes by Irene Higginbotham, Ervin Drake, Dan Fisher, Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber, William Tracey, Irving Berlin and more… and, of course, also by Lady Day herself? These are songs so strong that they not only hold up to new interpretations — they also benefit from readings done by musicians as fine as Scott Hamilton (tenor saxophone), Tim Ray (piano), Dave Zinno (acoustic bass), Jim Gwin (drums) and especially the nuanced playing of Duke Robillard (acoustic archtop guitar).
Here’s hoping that Mr. Hamilton (and swinging company) continue to explore the other phases of Billie Holiday’s contributions to jazz music, and that there record those albums as well. For this is certainly one worth remembering.
Essential Downloads: “Them There Eyes,” “I’ll Never Be The Same,” “God Bless The Child.”
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