The Best Things In Life

The Best Things In Life

Scott Hamilton & Karin Krog

Label: Stunt
Format: CD
Barcode: 0663993151922
Catalog number: STUCD 15192
Releasedate: 11-03-16
It is a common phenomenon to fall in love with a voice. Some even say that for a voice to have integrity in jazz, one must fall in love with it. In the ‘60s and ‘70s many people fell in love with Norwegian vocalist Karin Krog. She introduced young audiences to jazz. They suddenly realized that while Sweden had Monica Zetterlund, Norway had Karin Krog – and Denmark did its best to bring these stars to Copenhagen. Ever since, she has mesmerized crowds with her classic jazz vocals as well as her versatility. For Karin Krog is immune to genre boxes. She collaborates with the finest Scandinavian artists and with international stars in a wide range of styles (including Steve Kuhn, Archie Shepp, John Surman, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen). Her phrasing and intonation are easily recognizable, and she seems to have taken Billie Holiday’s statement of “hating straight singing” to heart. Karin is naturally compelled to change a song and make it her own. Her interpretations are always deeply personal while also so obviously right. When asked by American tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton to take part in a tribute recording for Billie Holiday’s would-be 100th birthday, Karin was very pleased. But soon Karin and Scott broke the boundaries of the original project. Scott agrees that as long as one has a story to tell, the choice of tune is less important. Jazz isn’t always about innovation. It is equally important to keep the flame kindled, and no one does this better than Scott Hamilton. Active since the ‘70s, he has kept closer to his initial starting point – swing – than Karin Krog. His love for and knowledge of the music from the ‘30s and ‘40s and the tenor giants of the period are genuine. Emerging at a time when jazz-rock owned the scene, he didn’t follow in the wake of the modernistic masters of the day, preferring a much less trendy path. He has since matured to become the Scott Hamilton we listen to now – a musician all his own: unpretentious, with great musicality and integrity, devoid of enlarged ego, sensitive, and with a genuine joy in playing. Karin’s voice is as full of vitality as ever, and her approach to the tunes presented here is refreshing and new. And just like Scott’s playing – straight from the heart. They are a fine match and obviously agree that the music is at the center. It is a pleasure to hear these mature artists in great form in close interplay with two Swedes, pianist Jan Lundgren and bassist Hans Backenroth, and Danish drummer Kristian Leth. On top of a repertoire of standards, this album also features a rare jazz specialty, “vocalese” – the use of recorded jazz solos as basis for a new set of lyrics. Karin tells about Don’t Get Scared, that back in the ‘50s, she started learning a vocalese version based on solos by Stan Getz and Lars Gullin with lyrics by Jon Hendricks. After a gig in Oslo, tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson hung out at Karin’s home with a few friends. She played King Pleasure’s version and explained that she had a problem understanding some of the words. Lucky sat patiently at the piano writing down the whole story. At the time, she didn’t know that he himself performed on the recording! She also told Scott that she knew a version with lyrics to a Lester Young solo from a recording of Sometimes I’m Happy. He knew the version and suggested a vocalese based on Slam Stewart’s bass solo. Karin has the old 78, and with help from British sax player John Surman, they took it apart and put words to it. A dedicated Slam Stewart fan, bassist Hans Backenroth transcribed the solo and played it to the new lyrics. In her cover notes Karin comments on each tune and also observes that Scott already seems to have recorded everything from the Great American Songbook. However one tune stood out: The Best Things In Life Are Free. “I had always yearned to record it – what better opportunity than now?” THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE... A song and an album reminding us what is most important in life and what great jazz can do. 
Scott Hamilton was born in 1954, in Providence, Rhode Island. During his early childhood he heard a lot of jazz through his father’s extensive record collection, and became acquainted with the jazz greats. He tried out several instruments, including drums at about the age of five, piano at six and mouth-organ. He had some clarinet lessons when he was about eight years of age, but that was the only formal music tuition he has ever had. Even at that age he was attracted to the sound of Johnny Hodges, but it was not until he was about sixteen that he started playing the saxophone seriously. From his playing mainly blues on mouth organ, his little band gradually became more of a jazz band. He moved to New York in 1976 at the age of twenty-two, and through Roy Eldridge, with whom he had played a year previously in Boston, got a six-week gig at Michael’s Pub. Roy also paved the way for him to work with Anita O’Day and Hank Jones. Although it was the tail-end of the of old New York scene, a lot of the greats were still playing and he got to work and learn from people like Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Vic Dickenson and Jo Jones. Eldridge was Scott’s champion, but pulled no punches, and could be extremely critical, something for which Scott has always been grateful. In December of the same year John Bunch got Scott his first recording date, for Famous Door, and was also responsible for him joining Benny Goodman. He continued to work with Goodman at different times until the early 1980s.
In 1977 he formed his own quartet, which later became a quintet, with Bunch added to the group. The same year Carl Jefferson heard him, and began recording him for his Concord record label. More than forty albums later he is still recording for them, having made many under his own leadership, several with his regular British quartet of John Pearce, Dave Green and Steve Brown, including his latest, Nocturnes & Serenades. The Quartet plus two guests, Dave Cliff and Mark Nightingale recorded Our Delight! for Alan Barnes’ Woodville label. A new release, Across the Tracks on Concorde is due this May. Along the way he has made albums with Dave McKenna, Jake Hanna, Woody Herman, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Flip Phillips, Maxine Sullivan, Buddy Tate, Warren Vache, many with Rosemary Clooney and a number with another of his mentors, Ruby Braff, with whom he played residencies at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, London in the mid-1980s. Over the years Scott has also performed and recorded with such touring bands as the Concord Jazz All Stars, the Concord Super Band and George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival All Stars.For some years he was based in London, where he first played in 1978, but now travels the world from Italy. Each year, in addition to two or three residencies with the quartet at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, British jazz club dates and festival work including Brecon, where he is one of the patrons, he regularly tours Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Japan, Spain and Italy. He returns to America three or four times a year to play at festivals, including in 2007, the New York JVC festival in June and Irvine, California in September, and in February 2008 for three nights at the Lincoln Centre New York. His playing has best been described by fellow tenor saxophonist and writer, Dave Gelly: “Following a Scott Hamilton solo is like listening to a great conversationalist in full flow. First comes the voice, the inimitable, assured sound of his tenor saxophone, then the informal style and finally the amazing fluency and eloquent command of the jazz language.” Scott was awarded the ‘Ronnie’ for International Jazz Saxophonist of the Year in the 2007 inaugural Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Awards.  It is no wonder that Scott Hamilton is in demand the world over.