Alexander Hawkins: Iron Into Wind

John Sharpe By

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On his second solo album pianist Alexander Hawkins creates an adventurous and deeply personal synthesis which draws from both jazz and classical wellsprings. One of the foremost representatives of an exciting younger generation of British musicians, his talents are on display not only on his own projects, like Uproot (Intakt, 2018), but with growing circle of collaborators that reads like a who's who of contemporary jazz: Evan Parker, Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt, Rob Mazurek, Joe McPhee, Wadada Leo Smith, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Gerry Hemingway, Nicole Mitchell, Esperanza Spalding, and John Surman form just a selection.

But it's alone at the keyboard that he can express himself most clearly. While his first solo effort Song Singular (Babel, 2014) evoked connections across the jazz tradition, Iron Into Wind is a more focused and inward looking set, though that's not to deny its scope and nuance. A dozen richly detailed cuts in the 3-6-minute range reveal influences which stretch from Czech composer Leoš Janáček to Mal Waldron. Hawkins takes a modular approach to his written material, with kernels of melody and reiterated motifs emerging so naturally from an abstract flow that they retain the freshness and unpredictability of improvisations.

That sense of exploration means he sidesteps steady tempo, favoring a lurching momentum rather than swing, going where the inspiration leads. Stuttering tremolos snag attention, found in diverse guises, among the delicate gestures of "Song All The Way," which bring to mind early Keith Jarrett, as well as in the keyboard traverses of "Tough Like Imagination" which send overtones fizzing between the speakers. Lyric fragments also surface, notably among the warped Gospel phrases during the mounting density of "Congregational." On "Strange Courage," Hawkins colors the intermittent figures with the slightest of blue tinges, making it near the equal in tunefulness stakes of the cascading lilt of "It Should Be A Song."

Although more distant, links to the jazz piano pantheon remain. On "Pleasant Constellation" reflections derived from Sun Ra's "Fate In A Pleasant Mood" lead to ringing sustains piled up one atop the other, until he finishes with spasmodic flourishes which contrast flickering figures with reverberating echo. On "Hard As Threads" thick muscular lines with a hint of Cecil Taylor bookend a sparkling interlude, then on "Tumble Mono" he unearths a resounding left hand groove recalling Craig Taborn in his pomp. But while he may acknowledge the masters, Hawkins sounds like none of them as he increasingly carves a singular niche.

Track Listing: Song All The Way; Congregational; Tough Like Imagination; Pleasant Constellation; Gossamer Like A Ghost Tree; Strange Courage; It Should Be A Song; Hard As Threads; Tumble Mono; Wander/Wonder; We All Bleed; Etude.

Personnel: Alexander Hawkins: piano.

Title: Iron Into Wind | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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