Scott Hamilton - tenor saxophone; Buddy Tate - tenor saxophone; Al Cohn - tenor saxophone; Dave McKenna - piano; Cal Collins - guitar; Bob Maize - bass; Jake Hanner - drums
Three generations of tenor players - rising star Scott Hamilton (27), Al Cohn (55) and Buddy Tate (68) - gathered for a classic sax summit in support of their 1981 Concord Jazz release, Tour de Force. Backed by a stellar rhythm section of pianist Dave McKenna, guitarist Cal Collins, bassist Bob Maize and drummer Jake Hanna (all fellow artists on the Concord label) the three tenors reveled in their mutual love of straight ahead jazz in this swinging set of standards, blues and ballads.
Hamilton was particularly hot on the scene at the time, having emerged in the late '70s as a young man with an old school sound that harkened back to such tenor greats as Don Byas, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. Tate was a tough Texas tenor man who had a lengthy tenure (from 1939 to 1948) in the Count Basie Orchestra and Cohn was known in the 1940s for playing in Woody Herman's Second Herd as one of the Four Brothers and also for co-leading a band in the late '50s with his tenor sax partner Zoot Sims. And though they may have come from different backgrounds and represented different generations, they made beautiful music together on stage at the Great American Music Hall.
The three come out swinging hard on the Count Basie staple, "It's Sand, Man!," an uptempo romp that was also famously covered in a vocal version by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross in their 1957 album Sing a Song of Basie. Everyone gets a solo taste on this blues-tinged opener, with Hamilton soloing first, followed by Tate and then Cohn and then a hot, swinging solo by guitarist Collins and one by pianist McKenna. The three tenors trade eights as they take the piece out in flying fashion.Next up is a soulful rendition of the mellow stroll by Texas tenor sax man Illinois Jacquet, the oft-covered "Robbins' Nest." Once again, each tenor player gets ample room to strut his stuff, along with pianist McKenna, bassist Maise and drummer Hanna, in individual solos.
The three tenors then dig in on "Blues Up And Down," the classic cutting contest vehicle originally conjured up by tenor titans Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Guitarist Collins and pianist McKenna also turn in potent solos on this uptempo burner. Cohn is then showcased in a mellow rendition of Duke Ellington's lush "Sophisticated Lady." And the brilliant Cincinnati-based guitarist Collins (a fellow Concord recording artist) is next showcased on a haunting six-string rendition of the standard "What Is This Thing Called Love?" The set closes with a three-way sax jam on the oft-covered standard, "Broadway," bringing this GAMH set to a swinging conclusion.
Scott Hamilton was born on September 12, 1954. A kind of a throwback, as a tenor sax player during the 1970s, he emulated players of an older style like Don Byas, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he gigged on the scene there (including some early dates with Roomful of Blues) and in 1976 moved to New York City. Shortly after arriving, he joined Benny Goodman's band before recording his acclaimed 1977 debut album for Concord Records, Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill. He worked as a leader and a sideman for the likes of singers Rosemary Clooney and Maxine Sullivan, vibist Cal Tjader, cornetist Ruby Braff and others in a string of Concord albums through the '80s and in the mid '90s relocated to London, where he lives today. His latest recording is 2012's 'Round Midnight, a collaboration with fellow tenor saxophonist Harry Allen.
George Holmes "Buddy" Tate was born on February 22, 1913 in Sherman, Texas. He started out on alto sax and as a teenager played with his brother in their band, McCloud's Night Owls. After switching to tenor sax, Tate began making a name for himself in Andy Kirk's band. He joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. He formed his own quintet ane worked the Celebrity Club in Harlem from 1953 to 1974. In the late 1970s, he co-led a band with saxophonist Paul Quinichette and also worked with Benny Goodman. Tate remained active in the late '8 0s and early '90s with Lionel Hampton's band, He appearined on James Carter's 1996 album Conversin' With The Elders along with fellow veterans Harry "Sweets" Edison and Lester Bowie on trumpets and Hamiet Bluiett and Larry Smith on saxophones. Tate died on February 10, 2001 at the age of 87.
Al Cohn was born in Brooklyn on November 24, 1925. During the late '40s, he played in Woody Herman's Second Herd as one of the Four Brothers, along with fellow saxophonists Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Serge Chaloff, while also contributing arrangements to the band. Beginning in 1956, Cohn led a quintet with fellow tenor player Zoot Sims. He recorded several stellar albums as a leader through the '70s for the Xanadu label and through the '80s for Concord Jazz. Cohn died of liver cancer on February 15,1988. - Bill Milkowski