By Bill Milkowski | Published September 2020
A versatile, tastefully swinging and eminently musical drummer in the tradition of his mentors Shelly Manne and Mel Lewis, Jeff Hamilton colors this music with hands, sticks and brushes in subtle yet masterful ways.
Flanked by pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist John Hamar, the bandleader makes tunes like John Williams’ “Make Me Rainbows” and George Cables’ “Helen’s Song” feel good with his relaxed approach and unerring instincts on the kit. Hendelman’s challenging stop-time vehicle “Catch Me If You Can” is a swinging showcase for the bandleader’s trademark brushwork, while Baden Powell’s alluring bossa nova “Lapinha” has him exercising ultimate finesse, playing with his fingers on the snare before resorting to brushes. One of Hamar’s two contributions, “Bucket O’ Fat,” opens with a virtuosic extended bass solo, before the trio jumps in at the 1:30 mark on the earthy, folksy refrain. Elsewhere, Hamilton filigrees the proceedings with his discerning use of cymbals, skins and rims on Artie Shaw’s “Moonray.”
From a drummer’s perspective, there’s plenty of technical flash here, but it’s all happening strictly inside the music, rather than on top of it—more Ed Thigpen than Billy Cobham.
Catch Me If You Can: Make Me Rainbows; Helen’s Song; Catch Me If You Can; The Pond; Lapinha; The Barn; Bucket O’ Fat; Bijou; Big Dipper; Moonray. (58:02)
Personnel: Jeff Hamilton, drums; Tamir Hendelman, piano; Jon Hamar, bass.