AS ITS TITLE suggests, "Soft Lights and Sweet Music" is brimming with more than a little night music. Which isn't all that surprising, since it features Gerry Mulligan and Scott Hamilton -- two jazz saxophonists whose affinity for romantic ballads is well documented.
Mulligan is an old hand at this sort of sax pairing, having already cut albums with Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, among others. Here he unveils five new pieces, ranging from the warmly seductive ballad "Noblesse" to a brisk, expansive blues called "Ghosts," tunes that display his considerable skills as a composer and the sheer power and charm of his baritone sax.
Hamilton's tenor sax, too, is old-fashioned in the best sense of the term. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has no use for the kind of high- register braying that can make a sax sound more like a badly tuned violin.
On several performances here, including the Irving Berlin title tune, Hamilton demonstrates that tone and lyricism are his chief concerns. And the ease with which he and Mulligan constantly interact is every bit as enjoyable as the elegant rhythmic support provided by pianists Mike Renzi, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Grady Tate.
GERRY MULLIGAN & SCOTT HAMILTON -- "Soft Lights and Sweet Music" (Concord Jazz CJ 300); Mulligan appears Friday and Saturday with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center; Hamilton appears at Cates Restaurant through Sunday.