Scott Hamilton & Harry Allen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Scott Hamilton & Harry Allen


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When tenor saxist Scott Hamilton emerged in the mid-70s, Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra were still riding the first wave of fusion, the Art Ensemble of Chicago was recording for the mainstream Atlantic label, and bell-bottoms hadn't yet gone out of fashion. But the twentysomething Hamilton, who worshiped at the altar of Lester Young, played music indebted to the 30s--untouched by bebop or Coltrane or soul jazz. With his slicked-back hair and baggy suits, he looked as well as sounded like he'd jumped out of a time machine; of course, given the recent fascination with the swing era (or at least its trappings), he now seems like something of a prophet. Toward the end of the 80s he stepped out of the long shadows cast by Young and immediate disciples like Don Byas and Zoot Sims, finding his own voice in the increasingly crowded neoclassic arena--just in time for Harry Allen to show up. Twelve years Hamilton's junior and outspoken in acknowledging his elder's influence, Allen immediately impressed listeners with his mature and unaffected command of the swing-into-bop tenor style that ruled the late 40s and early 50s. Certain velvety inflections and tight melodic curls are reminiscent of Stan Getz, but in his roast-beef tone, heated rhythms, and billowing solos, which pick up steam as they progress, Allen's a dead ringer for Al Cohn, Getz's contemporary and onetime section mate. For much of his career Cohn maintained a famous and delightful partnership with the aforementioned Zoot Sims, and though it seems too convenient to refer to Hamilton and Allen as the new Zoot and Al, the shoe fits. Backed by a sterling Chicago rhythm section--pianist Mike Kocour, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer Charles Braugham--they'll challenge each other on the brightly lit standards and breathy ballads that dominate their repertoires. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

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