’Round Midnight

This two-tenor-saxophone group features an “old” master—the 58-year-old Rhode Island-born Scott Hamilton—paired with the (new to me) 46-year-old Harry Allen, a Washington, D.C., native whose catalog of 30-plus CDs rivals Hamilton’s. When Hamilton began his career at 22 he didn’t join the prevailing free jazz or fusion movements—he looked back to the masters, e.g. Ben Webster and Zoot Sims. Allen is on the same page and this, their third collaboration since 2003, features the duo backed by Allen’s rhythm section (pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs) in a program of both pop and jazz standards. Opening with the least melancholy version I’ve ever heard of “My Melancholy Baby,” the group serves notice of the good times ahead. Allen’s “Great Scott,” a tribute to his compeer, jacks up the tempo a few more notches and spotlights the saxists in a churning sequence of chase choruses—long a highlight of tandem tenor teams from the ’40s on. They shift into a bossa nova mood on the delightful “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” On “Lover” everyone gets into high gear, and Sportiello’s solo is, once again, extra icing on the cake. Thelonious Monk’s ballad, “’Round Midnight,” gets a gorgeous treatment. Highly recommended!