Karin Krog and Scott Hamilton ‘The Best Things in Life’ (Stunt) 3/5

Scott Hamilton is a well respected tenor saxophonist who has recorded in what is now referred to as the jazz mainstream and his fifty some albums are highly regarded and he was a stalwart of the Concord jazz label in the 1980s and 1990s. His style is very much in the lineage of Ben Webster and Lester Young. The idea of a duet recording with veteran Norwegian jazz singer Karen Krog is a largely inspiring one that for some recall a major highlight in Krog’s career, the 1970s pairing of her with another tenorist, then resident in Scandinavia, Dexter Gordon. While not on a par with that epic album, the new recording is not without its moments and was recorded in Copenhagen with Swedish pianist Jan Lundgren serving as an elegant sounding bridge and interpreter between the two leaders.
Typical of the album as a whole is the title track opener, which is a swinging affair from start to finish, with a fine tenor solo and Krog revealing a vulnerability in her voice. Not all the numbers are vocals (Krog is out on five pieces) and when the quartet has free reign to operate, they come up with gently swinging jazz as on,’Shake it, don’t break it’, which is a seldom covered original from pianist Errol Garner.

While it has to be said that Krog’s voice is not as strong as it once was and can sometimes be a little strained in parts, she does succeed in compensating with a far greater knowledge of the songbook and uses that to good effect. Vocalese comes into play on the excellent ‘Don’t get scared’, where the John Hendricks composed lyrics invites comparison with Annie Ross, and there is even a little scatting from Krog. The beautifully created cartoon front cover from http://www.yellow1.dk/ enhances the listening experience.

Tim Stenhouse