Pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins sequences the ten tracks of Break A Vase in a seemingly counterintuitive manner. The title track, which is taken from West Indian poet Derek Walcott's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, is not heard until track six; it is a solo piano performance which emulates Walcott's words, "Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole." Hawkins' solo performance on grand piano with serrated bits of staticky samples urges concentration on his assembly rather than distraction. The brief track flows into a quartet performance of "Chaplin In Slow Motion" which is centered upon locomotion, both acceleration and deceleration.
Before we get to those two themes, Hawkins has constructed the container which he reduces to its constituent parts. This is indeed a branded Hawkins trait, evident in Togetherness Music (For Sixteen Musicians) (Intakt, 2021) and his past composing for The Convergence Quartet. He opens the disc with that same solo piano plus static before diving into "Stamped Down, Or Shovelled" with his trio, bassist Neil Charles and drummer Stephen Davis, augmented by electric guitarist Otto Fischer, percussionist Richard Olátúndé Baker, and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. The composition's character is a salute to the music of Henry Threadgill with its quirky time signature and singular logic. Elsewhere, Hawkins weaves a complex DNA strand with "Generous Souls" not unlike the patterns one might hear in a Steve Lehman composition. He allows room for Hutchings to solo over the percussive turbulence here and with "Stride Rhyme Gospel." These compositions are the vase Walcott spoke of that gets smashed, only to come together to form a stronger whole.
The Perfect Sound Would Like to Be Unique; Stamped Down, or Shovelled; Sun Rugged Billions;
Generous Souls; Faint Making Stones; Break a Vase; Chaplin in Slow Motion; Domingada Open Air; Stride
Rhyme Gospel; Even the Birds Stop to Listen.