A Ghost of a Chance – the stunning stand-out from the first set played by the tenor star Scott Hamilton at last weekend’s Norwich Jazz Party, and dedicated by me to the disappointed punters who turned up at the door of the Glasgow Art Club on Thursday night.
The American saxophonist- and one-time regular visitor to Glasgow – had been advertised as playing there for Bridge Jazz, but in actual fact, had never been booked. Which is a great shame not just for the many Scottish fans cheated of the chance to hear him again, but also for him: each time I’ve seen him in the last year or so (twice in London; once in Norwich), he has expressed enthusiasm for a return to Scotland, and a reunion with pianist Brian Kellock (with whom he notched up some memorable duets in the early 2000s) in particular.
Anyway, in Norwich last week, Hamilton was in great form, turning every ballad he played into a majestic statement. There’s something regal and elder statesman-like about him these days. He has nothing to prove; it may all seem effortless but he never coasts. And his song choices are always inspired. I may have heard him three or four times since the last Norwich jamboree but I’m fairly certain I only heard one of the tunes from those gigs being recycled last weekend.
Last August I was thrilled to hear him resurrect If I Love Again, a favourite of mine from one of his early albums. In January, it was my favourite track from his 1989 Plays Ballads LP – Dream Dancing, a key player in my conversion to jazz – that he had chosen to exhume. And in Norwich last weekend, he did it again: he chose another of my favourites from his early repertoire to play, this time the sublime Gordon Jenkins ballad This Is All I Ask, which he recorded with pianist Dave McKenna in the 1980s and used to play quite often.
Until recently, I had only ever heard it performed by Scott Hamilton and Warren Vache, two of my favourite musicians. I recently heard Tony Bennett singing the lyrics on his Duets DVD and concluded that it’s infinitely better as an instrumental as the lyrics turned out to be a let-down.. Here’s Hamilton’s 2012 version, and for more of him from Norwich, visit my YouTube channel – GirlfridayJazz.