Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo – We Shine The Sun
(Keywork Records. KWRCD013. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Saxophonist Paul Towndrow and pianist Steve Hamilton have played together for many years; long time alumni of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Hamilton has appeared on several of Towndrow’s recordings. Hamilton has recently been part of Billy Cobham’s touring band, as well as being pianist with Tommy Smith’s fusion band Karma.
This album finds him in a very different mood, representing a one-man rhythm section accompanying Towndrow’s elegant alto playing. In a set comprising five tunes by Towndrow, two by Hamilton and five various others – a mixture of jazz standards and classical pieces – the two Scots have produced a record of depth.
It is at times remarkably bluesy, as on the Towndrow composition Hymn For The 45. Towndrow’s playing on this piece is as rich as any gospel singer, particularly in his solo introduction, which evokes highlands pipes. Though the tune is slow, later in the piece notes fall from his alto in great rapidity. Hamilton’s accompaniment is all blues.
Hamilton’s own number The Colour Of Your Eyes is a fragile, gentle ballad, with Towndrow playing in the upper register to contrast Hamilton’s low, yearning chords. Hamilton’s own solo has a touch of mystery, of something remaining unsaid.
Those tunes by other composers are well chosen. Charles Ives’ Songs My Mother Taught Me is a slow lullaby over which Towndrow improvises. Bartok’s haunting Mountain Horn Song is darker: Towndrow’s sax takes on an eastern inflection, wailing into the darkness.
On Jackie McLean’s Little Melonae, the pair swing through the bebop changes with great dexterity, and Towndrow again behind out the blues in the tube. John Scofield’s The Guinness Spot is a typically catchy bitter-sweet melody, Towndrow’s solo sprinkling notes with a hint of yearning.
The closing piece, the 1940s ballad While My Lady Sleeps, sees Towndrow playing in the lower register before soaring higher and higher, building the tension before xalming things down. Hamilton’s melancholic solo draws the listener in, before Towndrow returns with the theme, finishing on an optimistic note.
Paul Towndrow & Steve Hamilton Duo are at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street on 31 August 2016 at 8.30 pm, in a doubld bill with Paul Towndrow’s London Scots
LINK: Interview with Paul Towndrow