This isn’t a blogpost about Alexander Hamilton, or about Lin-Manuel Miranda, or even about the Jeff Hamilton who plays drums with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
It’s about “our” Jeff Hamilton, shown above — seriously “above,” some years ago. He is one of the great subversives, often in all caps. Evidence:
But his music is serious, even when Jeff is giggling. Here he is on the drums, with Marc Caparone, cornet; Butch “John” Smith, alto; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Mike Fay, string bass in Paso Robles, California, in August 2013:
I first met Jeff as a pianist, a delightfully melodic, swinging one, through recordings. Then I encountered the drummer, the rough-hewn lyrical trombonist, the secret vocalist . . . each of his selves completely rewarding. During my California sojourns, I saw Jeff play with Clint Baker, Ray Skjelbred, Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, Rebecca Kilgore, and others — always lifting the band. And I will see and hear him again at this November’s San Diego Jazz Fest, which is a pleasure.
Photograph by Angela Bennett.
Most recently, Jeff Hamilton Jazz, a trio of Jeff, piano / vocal; Clint Baker, trumpet and more; Robert Young, saxophones, played a gig at Eric Whittington’s San Francisco Bird and Beckett Books. (Eric has extraordinarily good taste: note the Josef Skvorecky books on the table.)
The indefatigable videographer and fan Rae Ann Hopkins Berry — known to her YouTube flock as SFRaeAnn — was right in front on the evening of September 23, and she captured much of the music performed that night.
Here are several performances that give me special joy. One is Jeff’s quiet vocal and eloquent piano on CABIN IN THE PINES (a song that triangulates perfectly, with vocal recordings by Bing, Mildred, and Louis) while Clint does his Louis on trumpet:
Here’s my favorite song of romantic self-abnegation, I SURRENDER, DEAR (with Jeff Hamilton Jazz at full strength):
Once the imaginary lovebirds settled who was surrendering to whom, and why, they could head to Capri to enjoy themselves, thanks to the ghost of Wingy Manone:
And, suitably enlightened, the couple could settle into Buddhist enlightenment, embracing uncertainty:
On December 2, the Baker / Hamilton Trio will again visit Bird & Beckett Books. Perhaps this time Jeff can be prevailed on to do his Fuzzy Knight tribute. One can only hope.
Until then, I urge you to visit his website and learn the truth, that he is the REAL Hamilton. Accept no imitations.
May your happiness increase!