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Alexander Hawkins Ensemble at the Vortex, London

John Sharpe By

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Alexander Hawkins Ensemble
The Vortex
London, England
August 10, 2009


If you can judge a person by the company he keeps, then pianist Alexander Hawkins must be someone to watch given his musical associations, both actual and virtual. The packed house at the Vortex certainly thought so, confounding Hawkins' concern that the crowd might be a little light given a Monday night in the holiday season.

Hawkins has recorded as part of the fresh improvising collective Barkingside and with the transatlantic Convergence Quartet, featuring two of the rising stars on the American scene in cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer composer Harris Eisenstadt. His working resume is even broader, spanning genres and boasting gigs with South Africans drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and saxophonist Ntshuks Bonga and a place in several recent ensembles convened by saxophone iconoclast Evan Parker. That's only part of the story though. Hawkins might have had a good career as an A&R man: he mines the free jazz motherlode for interesting tunes, with tonight's performance featuring pieces by Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake with Jerome Cooper, and Sun Ra alongside his own original compositions. Heavy company indeed.

This evening was the CD launch party for No Now Is So... (FMR, 2009) by Hawkins six-piece ensemble and featured the same line up, though without the steel pans of Orphy Robinson for the first set as he was stuck in traffic en route. While the other names in his ensemble might be even less well known that proved no reflection on their improvisational prowess over two sets breaching the 85-minute mark, including all the covers and Hawkins' originals from the CD.


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