In the '50s, just about the time when tenorman Buddy Tate was busy catching his second wind as a jazz musician, another saxophonist, Scott Hamilton, was busy being born. Last night the two met at Blues Alley for what was billed as "The Battle of the Saxes," but a confluence rather than a clash of Swing-era styles ensued.
Tate, a Basie alumnus and thus accustomed to cutting sessions, filled the air with a broad muscular voice rooted in blues-based jump rhythms, a sympathetic setting for Hamilton's often-errie evocations of Ben Webster and Lester Young.
Less confident than Tate in volume, Hamilton's strength lies in his attack and phrasing: He seems able to conjure up the sound of both Young and Webster at will.
His lush, almost wet vibrato on "Green Dolphin Street" and "Everything Happens to Me" was contrasted by the fast, occasionally haunting chorus of Count Basie's tune "Broadway," where he holds his own with Tate's Texas tenor.
Hamilton, who affects both the music and apparently the dress of an era long gone, will no doubt be criticized for his derivative, and considering his age, anachronistic behavior. Last night, however, he made veteran Buddy Tate feel quite at home, and that's saying something. Buddy Tate and the Scott Hamilton Quintet will be at Blues Alley through Sunday.