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Hawes recorded The Sermon a few days before he was sent to prison for five years on drug charges. The session remained imprisoned for much longer, only receiving a brief release after Hawes’ death. Finally out on CD, The Sermon, as one might expect, is an album of spirituals and church hymns given the jazz treatment. This concept has been tried before, but many of these projects are too solemn and reverent, or feature less jazz than gospel. Hawes wisely focuses on improvisation and swing, fashioning versions of these well-known songs that are more likely to make you snap your fingers than put you in a state of grace. Hawes varies the tempo and presentation of each song to sustain interest and both Vinnegar and Levey seem content to provide understated support. The pianist, a West Coast veteran, has the lightly swinging style favored by Dave Brubeck and Vince Guaraldi and will not disappoint fans of either of the two. Jazz has always had deep ties with the music of the church; few have exploited this relationship as well as Hawes.
Track Listing: Down by the Riverside; Just a Closer Walk With Thee; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen; When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder; Go Down Moses; Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho; Blues N/C.
Personnel: Hampton Hawes-piano; LeroyVinnegar-bass; Stan Levey-drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.