Friday, December 9, 2016

A swinging, sophisticated romp through West Coast Jazz

Trombonist-composer-arranger Dick Hamilton has a thing for West Coast Jazz, no matter how you define it. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida on the west coast of Florida, where as a teenager in the 1950s, he was drawn to the sounds of cool jazz coming out of the west coast of the U.S. - i.e., California. The music of Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Shorty Rogers, among others.

Dick Hamilton
Now living back in Sarasota after 45 years on L.A.'s studio scene, Hamilton has a band that draws from both of his "west coasts." His newly formed West Coast Jazz Sextet performed Friday as part of the South County Jazz Club's matinee concert series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

The two-set concert featured Hamilton's intricate arrangements of jazz standards, a few tunes that he based on the chord changes of other hits, and a handful of originals. While Hamilton is a fine, inventive trombonist, his mastery as an arranger was on full display from start to finish.

Every tune included intricate voicings for the band's blend of horns, piano, bass and drums. At various times they included unison playing, sophisticated counterpoint reminiscent of the Gerry Mulligan-Bob Brookmeyer collaborations, and segments where two horns provided complementing or contrasting fill behind the solo horn.
Matt Bokulic

Hamilton's superb teammates for this lively event included Jim Martin on trumpet and flugelhorn, Rodney Rojas on tenor and alto sax (subbing for the band's usual reed player, Bill Carmichael), Matt Bokulic on piano, John DeWitt on bass and the clever, laid-back drummer Johnny Moore. Martin and Hamilton have been playing jazz together since 1950 when they were students at Sarasota Junior High School.
Collaborators since 1950

Rodney Rojas
Highlights: Martin's beautiful solo on "Delilah" (from the movie
"Samson and Delilah"); the band's take on "Misty" (performed as an uptempo jazz samba rather than the melancholy feel of the original ballad); an unusual rearrangement of fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" (which Hamilton recast as "Contrapuckle Rose"); and a version of "Prelude to a Kiss" that featured the beautiful blend of flugelhorn, tenor sax and trombone.
Johnny Moore

Other jazz standards included "Love For Sale," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Walkin'," "Skylark" and "WhereAre You." Hamilton also shared originals that he based on the chord changes to "Getting Sentimental Over You" and "How Deep is the Ocean?"

Two standout Hamilton originals included the funky groove of "D&P," which he said he  wrote for a 60-second Old Milwaukee beer commercial, and the somewhat raucous "So's Your Old Man." Dick Hamilton's West Coast Jazz Sextet rode off into the sunset with an instrumental version of "Tumbling Tumbleweed" filled with the leader's clever and sometimes humorous arranging touches
Bokulic, Rojas, Martin, Hamilton, DeWitt, Moore

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