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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Harry ALLEN &

Round Midnight

Challenge Records CR73348



1. My melancholy Baby [6:05]; 2. Great Scott [7:51]; 3. How am I to know [8:29]; 4. The opener [6:25]; 5. Baubles, bangles and beads [8:34]; 6. Hey Lock! [7:51]; 7. Lover [8:11]; Flight of the foo birds [6:06]; 9. Round midnight [6:41].

Harry Allen (tenor saxophone), Scott Hamilton (tenor saxophone), Rossano Sportiello (piano), Joel Forbes (bass), Chuck Riggs (drums)
rec. at Nola Studios, New York, USA on February 6-7, 2012. Engineers: Jim Czak & Bill Moss [66:24]


Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton follow the tradition of that other great and popular duo Al Cohn and Zoot Sims and the sound is not dissimilar to the other star in this tradition of tenor playing that was so popular in the 1960s, Stan Getz, and through that line of influence we can be taken back through Coleman Hawkins and others to Lester Young - what a pedigree! That is not to say that each of these musicians did not or do not have their own distinctive sound but the style is similar in all cases, characterised by an easy, laid back and mellow sound. Indeed the booklet notes confirm this when writing about Scott Hamilton clearly stating that he was most influenced by Zoot Sims and Ben Webster, another star in the tenor sax galaxy who Al, Zoot and Stan all gave as one of their tenor idols. They say that `what goes around comes around' and so it is here, which is good for the current generation of jazz lovers who might otherwise regret having missed out on hearing the aforementioned four great tenorists live because they have the chance of hearing these two who continue to carry on the tradition. Though they have duetted together in concerts on many occasions this disc is only their third collective collaboration, here along with their preferred rhythm section and Harry's regular partners. It's a nice touch that it was Harry who had played an influential role to the young Scott while he was honing his own craft and that now they should get to play together; a `marriage' made in heaven perhaps, well jazz heaven at the very least. The two so perfectly complement each other it's easy to understand that playing together was something that was just meant to be. Kicking off the disc is My melancholy Baby and it was interesting to hear this rendition which is a classic approach and so different to the one that appears on another disc I recently reviewed Blues-a-plenty ALC99058 on which Ben Webster, no less, is the tenor soloist, along with alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and which dates from 1959 when Harry Allen was a 2 year old toddler and Scott was yet to be born for another 7 years. On this account each of these two genial tenorists are generous in the way they share the music with neither making any attempt to steal any thunder from the other, making for a partnership borne of mutual respect and the result is plain to hear. I was fascinated to learn, incidentally, that My melancholy Baby, though always linked with the 1920s, was in fact composed in 1912 when it was first sung by no other than William Frawley who famously made his name as the cantankerous miserly landlord of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in the long-running 1950s TV sitcom I love Lucy. There follows a tribute to his partner here that Harry wrote entitled Great Scott that allows each to take three choruses while pianist Romano gets a spot and then the duo get to indulge in some sax pyrotechnics. How am I to know the booklet informed me was an obscure song that though written in 1929 waited until Billie Holliday recorded it in 1944. Romano sets what the notes describe as a `basie groove' then taken up by Scott, leading to improvisation from Harry and bassist Joel Forbes gets moment to shine. It was interesting that when The opener comes along it turns out to have been a tune penned by Bill Potts for a 1960 album by...Al Cohn and Zoot Sims! That these two tenor players are the natural inheritors of the sound that those two stars forged is very evident here with those distinctive, gentle, mellow lines. This groove is then repeated in a particularly bossa inspired version of Baubles, bangles and beads which itself emerged into the public consciousness from the musical Kismet that was so controversial when it first came out due to allegations of plagiarism because the main song was an almost note for note steal from Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from the opera Prince Igor. The duo make a beautiful job of the three bs and that rocking Latin beat perfectly expresses the tune bringing out all the nuances within it. Hey Lock refers to Eddie “lockjaw” Davis, its composer and the duo had always wanted to feature it and as the notes say ‘The wait was worth it’ to which I must add a resounding ‘I agree’! Lover, that wonderful Rodgers and Hart number which dates from 1932 and Flight of the foo birds (where do they get these titles?!) allow both tenors to have a pretend trade off with each other but it’s all good natured sparring and as the note writer Scott Yanow rightly says it is the listener that wins. The concluding track is the album’s sole ballad and title track and is the right note to end on as Round midnight is a wonderful tune that was a signature one for one of its co-writers Thelonious Monk and brings out the lazy sounding style as much as anything else on the disc with the two tenors seemingly vying with each other while in fact proving what a brilliant partnership it is when they manage to play together as here but regrettably as the notes emphasise they were both straight off again after the recording to play again to their thousands of fans the world over. The rhythm section play such a key role of support for the two, whose interplay is the record’s raison d’ętre, that they can easily get forgotten but they shouldn’t be because it is that rock solid support that helps make the experience what it is, a joy from start to finish!
Steve Arloff

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