With steel pans as the lead instrument and a lineup that also includes drums and percussion, there is little doubt that H2O will have an emphasis on groove. Of course, while the churning bottom is an undeniable focus of the music, Phil Hawkins has also composed some light, airy melodies to float above the beats. The music is unfailingly relaxed and possesses a breezy Caribbean lilt that seems to assure that everything will get done in its own sweet time.
Never Stop Building de Pan plays Hawkins' steel pans against driving second-line drums. "Beautiful Soul starts out with some exotic bird calls a la Martin Denny before guest Jessica Vautor contributes lovely vocals in Creole. Pianist Matt Clark also adds a meditative solo over the swaying bossa nova rhythm.
However, there are moments when the music veers into overly slick territory. Nobody expects grittiness here, but the synthesized keyboards on "Tragedy add little in the way of texture, veering a bit too close to what one might hear over the sound system at an all-inclusive vacation resort. Also distracting is the way that the opening track, "Livin' Right, appears to quote the main theme from Super Mario Bros. Each time the phrase was played, I found myself tensing and wrapping my hands around an imaginary NES controller.
The playing on H2O is obviously expert, but Hawkins would benefit from a less sterile sound. It would also be interesting to hear the steel pans featured in less familiar settings.
Livin' Right; Never Stop Building de Pan; Dream of the Western Guitar Repairman; Beautiful
Soul; Kimba; Tragedy; Divertido; Reggae for Dinner; Walkin' the Cats.
Phil Hawkins: steel pans, percussion, keyboards, ukulele; Matt Clark: piano; Marc van
Wageningen: bass; Paul van Wageningen: drums; Michael Spiro: percussion; Bob Crawford:
piano (6,7); Gerry Grosz: vibes (3,9); James Moore: trumpet (2,5); Stan Ginn: congas (3,8);
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.