Jeff Hamilton Trio, Gary Peacock & Marc Copland, Ben Goldberg, The Monterey Quartet, Vince Guaraldi

Jeff Hamilton Trio/Symbiosis (Capri Records): Hamilton and his trio slip right into a groove at the beginning of their CD and while it’s nothing you haven’t heard before if you’re a jazz aficionado–a bluesy shuffled ornamented with sparkling piano sewn together with sinewy bass lines–it still impresses by the surety of the men’s work. Such authority becomes even less of a surprise when the group ventures into even more subtle and abstract realms, none of which are too far out but just enough so to effectively contrast the earthy core (and accompanying sense of humor) in their sound.

Gary Peacock & Marc Copland/Insight
(Pirouet Records): The quietude of the bass/piano collaboration here belies the nuances of perpetual motion the duo generate, the nuances of which are far out of proportion to the minimalism of the instruments involved. There’s an almost orchestral flow to the music here yet it insinuates itself rather than overwhelming. Even so, the product of this pair’s intense camaraderie will not allow itself to be relegated to background music: as familiar material such as "All Blues" becomes transformed in the hands and hearts of these two musicians, it is absolutely irresistible in its intensity.

Ben Goldberg/Go Home (Bag Production): Charlie Hunter doesn’t exactly steal the show from Ben Goldberg on the latter’s own session, but together with Scott Amendola (a partner of the seven-string guitarist’s from way back), the guitarist and drummer not only set a firm rhythmic foundation for a quartet including Ron Miles on cornet and trumpet. Embroidering both the beat and the tune, there’s a delicious contrast indeed between the resounding movement of the bass notes and drums with the whispery textures of the leader’s clarinet. It works so well because all the musicians involved are fleet of mind and finger, not competing with each, but rather seeking means of complementing each other.

The Monterey Quartet/Live At The 2007 Jazz Festival
(Monterey Jazz Festival Records): Proffered by a foursome of the most vibrant musicians in the genre overall, this is the definition of traditional jazz. The playing of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and saxophonist Chris Potter contains a refreshing simplicity, while bassist Dave Holland brings profundity to the music through his understated playing and deft writing. And while drummer Eric Harland may be less well-known than his peers in this ensemble, hearing this splendid live recording, it’s simple to see why he is here: his touch is impeccable as his sense of rhythm is sure, the elements that bind the four into a real band.

Vince Guaraldi/The Definitive Vince Guaraldi
(Fantasy): It’s never too late for a great jazzman to get his due and this two CD collection is just the thing to open the ears of novices and aficionados alike about this wonder of a piano man. Quite simply, Guaraldi had a career before and after lending his tuneful gifts to the Peanuts holiday specials, but the same virtues he displayed on the soundtracks of those animated programs are here, particularly an effortless ear for bright melody that becomes a means to intelligent improvisation.

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