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Clayton Hamilton Orchestra Swings Easily Among Styles

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl’s resident jazz ensemble, made its Music Center debut Wednesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with an upbeat program titled “A Salute to Swing.”

Swing, as John Clayton, the ensemble’s music director, pointed out, means many things to many people. But in the hands of the CHJO, it represents a briskly rhythmic interfacing of well-crafted arrangements and spirited soloing.

In its role at the Hollywood Bowl, the ensemble--with Clayton’s orchestrations--is obliged to accompany a diverse array of artists. The task almost necessarily calls for the group to have a malleable quality, adjustable to the individual musical needs of the various performers.

Perhaps because of that orientation, the orchestra’s performance was chameleon-like, shifting and changing from tune to tune. The results were often impressive, from the dense, moving harmonies of “Heart and Soul” and the disjunct rhythms and piquant chordal clusters of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” to the showcasing of co-leader Jeff Clayton’s swooping alto saxophone line on Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and the duet by the other two co-leaders, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, on the bossa nova classic “How Insensitive.”

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The second half of the evening was devoted to appearances by a number of stellar guest artists. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, a determined traditionalist with a sound that embraces both Ben Webster and John Coltrane, romped through an up-tempo, small-group rendering of “Cherokee” before joining with the CHJO for a showcase version of “Tangerine.”

Singer Barbara Morrison, as always, was warmly appealing on a pair of standards and a rocking “Smack Dab in the Middle.” Unfortunately, however, her brief set never quite allowed her to reveal her marvelous way with the blues.

Climaxing the expansive evening of music, trumpeter Clark Terry applied his liquid fluegelhorn lines and incomparable sense of vocal humor to his trademark blues improvisation “Mumbles.” His dynamic interaction with the CHJO, Morrison and Hamilton was an appropriate closer for a program signaling the many eclectic sounds scheduled for the summer season of jazz at the Hollywood Bowl.


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