CD review

Steve Hamilton – “Between The Lines”

Steve Hamilton – Between The Lines 
(Available from Steve Hamilton’s Bandcamp. Album review by Patrick Hadfield)

Recorded in the depths of the Covid lockdown, Scottish pianist Steve Hamilton‘s first solo record is an eclectic collection, full of contrasts that reflect both his wide range of influences and the breadth of his career so far. He played for several years with Bill Bruford’s Earthworks and has featured in Billy Cobham’s band in recent times. In his native Scotland he is an in-demand player, regularly appearing with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Alyn Cosker’s fusion band, as well as performing as an accompanist and in solo shows.

On Between The Lines, Hamilton is joined for one track each by Davie Dunsmuir, who plays guitar in Cosker’s band, guitar maestro Martin Taylor, saxophonist Paul Booth (in whose quartet Hamilton also plays) and guitarist Don Paterson, who also provides some of the arrangements and electronic programming on the record. These collaborators bring their different moods and approaches to bear; in the process of creating the music, bouncing tracks recorded in isolation backwards and forwards, Hamilton considers each of them as co-creators.

A couple of the tracks have a cinematic quality about them, as if they were composed for an imaginary soundtrack: From The Embers, featuring Booth, would not feel out of place in Blade Runner; the collaboration with Taylor, Ealasaid (the Gaelic form of Elisabeth) is a slow, evocative, elegiac piece that would fit a Highland costume drama. Other tracks, such as the opener Awakening, have a strong seam of ambient-electronica running through them. Look Up, on which Paterson provides the guitar, could almost be a piece for church-organ, with rich, resonant harmonics. In contrast, Angus By Rail, for which Paterson also provided some elements, is almost frenetic, the pace and driving rhythm pushing along.

But for me the heart of the record are Hamilton’s three solo piano pieces. A Map Of You, Between The Lines and Ae Fond Kiss are slow ballads. Hamilton’s playing is full of wistful romance and reflection, and almost heartbreaking longing. Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss is a familiar song of love and loss; played on electric piano, it literally resonates, closing off the record with a hint of fondness but leaving one desiring more.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

Steve Hamilton is recovering after a recent operation for cancer. You can help provide financial support here.

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