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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Midnight at Nola's Penthouse

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19415



1. Wonder Why
2. A Garden in the Rain
3. This Can't Be Love
4. A Time for Love
5. Come Back to Sorrento
6. All My Tomorrows
7. Big Butter and Egg Man
8. It's All in Your Mind
9. All God's Chillun' Got Rhythm
10. In the Middle of a Kiss

Scott Hamilton - Tenor Sax
Rossano Sportiello - Piano


Rossano Sportiello has been labelled a "stride pianist" but that hardly does the man justice. Sure, he can play stride in the venerable style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, but this album shows him soloing and accompanying with a broad range of methods: using chords, single notes, walking bass and filling in subtly the spaces where Scott Hamilton pauses.

Scott Hamilton is one of those musicians who is content to swim against the tide. While many tenorists try to emulate John Coltrane, Hamilton concentrates on producing a beautiful tone, so that every note he plays is a delight. He also likes referring to other tunes in his solos - not so much quoting them directly as hinting at them. For instance, in the first tune he refers obliquely to The Man I Love and All of Me (among others).

Wonder Why illustrates another pleasure of this album: the choice of rare numbers. How often do we hear such gorgeous tunes as A Garden in the Rain or In the Middle of a Kiss? Hamilton and Sportiello caress each song with loving care. Their relaxed playing is underlined by the fact that no track lasts for less than five minutes, allowing the duo to stretch out at leisure. Yet there is also good humour in this album, with unexpected choices like Come Back to Sorrento (a salute to Sportiello's Italian heritage?) and Big Butter and Egg Man (which ends with one of Rossano's cheeky postscripts).

Rossano Sportiello is another musician with an enticing tone: seldom going to excess and never showing off, even though his superb technique would allow him to. The sleeve-notes quote Rossano as saying "Most of all, I want to see people smiling and having fun".

This album kept me smiling all the way through.

Tony Augarde

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