SCOTT HAMILTON & BUCKY PIZZARELLI
When tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton hit the scene in the mid-70s, he raised eyebrows all around the jazz world: It was fusion's heyday, but while his contemporaries plugged in and embraced elements of rock, Hamilton chose Coleman Hawkins as a model. He played swing standards with a hot bounce and a plush, velvety tone, and he even looked anachronistic--he wore a slicked-back do instead of shoulder-length hair, and boxy suits instead of bell-bottoms and body shirts. In 1976 plenty of jazz veterans still fit this description, but nobody expected it from a 22-year-old. By comparison guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, Hamilton's partner in this weekend's concerts, was 50 in '76; he'd started playing when swing was new, and later put in stints with Benny Goodman and Bud Freeman--hearing the music come from him made a lot more sense. In recent decades, mainstream jazz has adopted Wynton Marsalis's philosophy "Forward to the Past," and Hamilton no longer seems quite as removed from his surroundings; he's even taken some small steps toward the present, incorporating bebop and bossa nova into his repertoire. And though tunes from the 30s still dominate his concept, his concerted drive and impressive technique would be welcome in any age. Pizzarelli's public profile has also benefited from the revaluation of older jazz idioms, but he'd have succeeded in any case. A virtuoso who translates his extraordinary knowledge of harmony into inventively shaded chord work, he's absorbed each decade's musical innovations and continued to grow: even concentrating on the songs of his youth, he's more of a modernist than Hamilton. The two will play as part of a quartet. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. Neil Tesser
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Teri Bloom.