Top Keyboardist Reveals What Lies Between the Lines

Scottish pianist and keyboards player Steve Hamilton has used the enforced inactivity of lockdown to record his first solo album, Between the Lines.

Like musicians across the world, Steve had all his work, including international tours with drumming legend Billy Cobham’s band, cancelled at a stroke in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having appeared on more than forty recordings by luminaries including leading drummer Bill Bruford, singer Eddi Reader and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Steve felt this was an ideal opportunity to release an album of his own.

A hugely experienced musician who studied at Berklee School of Music before amassing a CV that includes work with jazz legends Ray Charles, Freddie Hubbard and Pee Wee Ellis, Steve grew up in a musical family with his father, Laurie, a professional guitarist, always on hand to share advice and musical discoveries.

Between the Lines is dedicated to Laurie, who died in 2013, and features guests, the guitar virtuoso Martin Taylor and saxophonist Paul Booth, who is a long-time member of Steve Winwood’s band and has toured as part of the Eagles’ horn section. Guitarists Don Paterson and Davie Dunsmuir, Steve’s colleague from the Billy Cobham Band, also feature. 

Most of the material was written, often on the spot, by Steve, alone or with his guests. Opening track Awakening explores the textures and tones available with the latest keyboard technology. The ballad Ealasaid, dedicated to Martin Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth, was created spontaneously by Steve and Martin. For the powerful, atmospheric In a Flash of Light, Steve invited Davie Dunsmuir to add electric guitar to his keyboard and rhythm track, and Paul Booth’s tenor saxophone brought out the yearning quality of From the Embers.

Long-time friend Don Paterson, who is better known as one the UK’s leading poets, contributed his trademark filigree guitar picking to Look Up. Paterson’s evocative composition Nijinsky, which first appeared during his time with Celtic-jazz group Lammas in the 1990s, has always fascinated Steve and inspires a searching improvisation here. Paterson was also the source of the arrangement of Robert Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss which closes the album with a mood of poignancy.

“I really enjoyed the process of making the album,” says Steve. “I didn’t set out with any particular aim or sound in mind. Sometimes it’s interesting just to see where your imagination takes you but there were also compositions, like Don’s Nijinsky and Ae Fond Kiss, that I wanted to explore and I’m pleased with the way it all turned out. I think it’s a good blend of acoustic and electric music.” 

Between the Lines is available on Bandcamp at

https://stevehamilton.bandcamp.com/album/between-the-lines

Adam Roberts

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