Back to the ballad

Saxophonist Scott Hamilton opens this season's jazz series at Tel Aviv's Opera House on Friday evening.

Those who don't dig "jazz" per se might be surprised to learn that the likes of Frank Sinatra and the stars of countless musicals more than dabbled in the genre. Similarly, there has been an abundance of well-known and beloved movie soundtracks replete with jazzy sentiment, and many of the most popular ballads of the 20th century were recorded and performed around the globe by purveyors of jazz. Saxophonist Scott Hamilton pertains to the latter category, as he will demonstrate at Tel Aviv's Opera House this evening as the opener of this season's jazz series there. Hamilton emerged on the New York scene in the 1970s and immediately made a name for himself as one of the few musicians of real talent who carried the tradition of the classic jazz tenor saxophone in the style of titans such as Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Zoot Sims. Interestingly, Hamilton's back-to-roots approach at the time was way out of sync with both the envelope-pushing and the genre-crossing material being produced by most of his peers. While it may have been considered an anomaly back then, it later turned out that paradoxically, the sax player's approach was ahead of its time. When the likes of now stellar trumpeter Wynton Marsalis began exclusively pushing acoustic, straightahead jazz in the Eighties - as part of the so-called Young Lions generation of jazz musicians - Hamilton was already well-ensconced in the sector. Tonight's concert - in which Hamilton will appear with his longstanding British quartet of pianist John Pearce, acoustic bass player Dave Green and drummer Steve Brown - will be based on some of the most beloved ballads from the Great American Songbook, as well as numbers from his Nocturnes & Serenades album, which he recorded with the quartet in 2003. Patrons at the Opera House tonight are likely to find themselves imagining smoke-filled lounge ambiances of yesteryear as neo-traditionalist Hamilton and his cohorts produce eminently endearing sounds that should strike a comfortable chord with all. Tonight, 10 p.m., Opera House, Tel Aviv, 19 Shaul Hamelech, (03) 692-7777, NIS 199-115.