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Hampton Hawes: Bird Song

Derek Taylor By

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Here are two previously unreleased Hawes sessions that until now have been collecting dust on the vault shelves for nearly five decades extricated by the particularly persistent producer Eric Miller for listeners’ approval. Anyone familiar with Hawes will immediately recognize what a find these recordings are. Hawes was the consummate obstacle to critics who sought to paint the West Coast solely in the stereotypic colors of Cool Jazz. His pianistic language was one couched in the hotter dialects of hard bop and his lengthy Los Angeles residency was a chief reason behind the music’s ascendency out west.

Both of these dates find Hawes in near peak form and benefit immeasurably from the presence of two top flight bassists. Recognizing the stature of the string magicians at his disposal Hawes opens up the majority of tunes for solo spots from both bass players. The redoubtable Mr. P.C. is comes first and his lines are up to his customary standards of excellence, though he curiously neglects his bow in favor of fingers on all of the pieces. To my ears few sounds are as unanimously pleasing as Chambers’ seemingly limitless inventions on his four strings. Marable’s traps keep alacritous time and the three superlative technicians prance through an attractive program of standards and the stray original from Hawes. Sadly the second trio isn’t given as much time together as the first and only turns in three tunes. LaFaro exhibits an agility on his instrument that speaks again to the tragedy of his demise at such an early age as the victim of a car crash. His sturdy solo on “I’ll Remember April” offers the rare chance to hear him improvise with bow.

Hawes’ trio recordings of the 50s are among the finest examples of small ensemble hard bop created on California shores. With these new discoveries not only is his discography bolstered, but listeners are also given another window into his art at a time when it was at it’s zenith. This disc is valuable document and should be consulted by anyone who appreciates resourceful and resonant piano trio jazz.


Track Listing: Big Foot/ Ray

Personnel: Collective Hampton Hawes- piano; Paul Chambers- double bass; Lawrence Marable-drums; Scott LaFaro- double bass; Frank Butler- drums.

| Record Label: Contemporary | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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