Jazz band puts on captivating show

Jeff Hamilton Trio played to a cozy crowd at Newport's Sunset Jazz.

August 23, 2012|By Heather Youmans
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio, featuring Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Christoph Luty (bass), performs Harold Arlen's "Blues in the Night" at the third annual Sunset Jazz at Newport summer series in Newport Beach on Wednesday night.
Jeff Hamilton Trio, featuring Tamir Hendelman (piano)… (Heather Youmans,…)

Jazz aficionados gathered at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa this week to listen to the hard-swinging Jeff Hamilton Trio.

Hamilton's trio was a hit at the indoor Newport Beach Jazz Party in February. But during Wednesday's Sunset Jazz in Newport, the more intimate rose garden venue, which accommodated 240 guests, pulled the audience into the action.

The venue was pleasant and relaxing, except when airplanes flying overhead disrupted the music. Hamilton acknowledged the disruptions humorously. In the middle of a drum solo, he stopped playing, looked over his shoulder, pouted, straightened his jacket and continued on.

The evening's set list featured the trio's twists on classic songs, in addition to tunes off its 2012 CD "Red Sparkle."

"We are happy we are the best trio you can find at these prices on a Wednesday night — except for the drummer," Hamilton joked as he greeted the crowd.


Throughout the evening's sets, Hamilton was a personable band leader and held the trio together. He often shouted at his band or cracked a joke in the middle of the song, which made the music relative and amusing at points.

But of course the playing was even more captivating.

Even diehard enthusiasts could not begin to understand the musical genius at work. Most sat in awe and let the moving music take them on a journey.

Tamir Hendelman (piano), Christoph Luty (bass) and Hamilton are the best at their respective instruments. When they unleashed their musical prowess, the entranced audience broke out into cheers and sometimes laughter. Even newbies bobbed their heads and tapped their feet by the end of the night.

First set standouts included Hamilton solos in his song "Max"; Dori Caymmi's "Like A Lover," off the Trio's "Best Things Happen"; and Milt Jackson's gut wrenching blues "Yano," which had the audience in a frenzy at every turnaround.

The second set featured "Hat's Dance," an endearing tune Hamilton and Hendelman co-wrote for Hamilton's 88-year-old grandmother, Harriet, off "Red Sparkle"; a Brazilian take on "Bye-Ya" by Thelonius Monk; Harold Arlen's "A Sleepin' Bee," another tune off "Red Sparkle"; a Billy Taylor's "Easy Walker," a tune Hamilton said he played every night when he was with Oscar Peterson for five years.

Over the years, Hamilton has played with Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie Orchestra and Rosemary Clooney and has been on more than 200 recording with his trio, Peterson, Ray Brown and countless others.

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