Thad Jones - The Magnificent Thad Jones

Thad Jones The Magnificent Thad Jones (Blue Note 1956)

Hackensack magic on The Magnificent Thad Jones, the trumpeter’s most celebrated early career outing.

Thad Jones - The Magnificent Thad Jones

Personnel

Thad Jones (trumpet), Billy Mitchell (tenor saxophone), Barry Harris (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Recorded

on July 9 & 14, 1956 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1527 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
April In Paris
Billie-Doo
If I Love Again
Side B:
If Someone Had Told Me
Thedia


The year 1956, hard bop has been gathering substantial steam for a few years now. The Magnificent Thad Jones is on some level affected also by the fresh extensions of modern jazz that Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Lou Donaldson and Art Blakey introduced. The album’s harmonic textures run along bop’s course, it includes bop-inflected phrasing, particularly by tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell and pianist Barry Harris. However, the stress is on bouncy mid-tempos typical for hard bop instead of fast, familiar bop tempos, the mood is relaxed but vivacious and Jones introduces clever writing with one of two original compositions, the blues-based Billy-Boo and, especially, Thedia. Two seldom played standards, Murray/Oakland’s If I Love Again and DeRose/Tobias’ If Someone Had Told Me, alternate with the well-known, beautiful melody, April In Paris.

It is often said that talented musicians that hailed from the same city and have come to try and conquer the jazz capital of the world, New York, often had a special rapport as a result of their mutual background. Perhaps it is still like that today. Assisted by Percy Heath from Philadelphia and Max Roach from New York, the three remaining Detroit-raised guys, Harris, Mitchell and the leader, Thad Jones, indeed gel particularly well. Harris, by then already a long-time devoted bop pianist with an encyclopedian knowledge of Monk, Powell and standard melodies, and a mentor to John Coltrane, Charles McPherson, among others, is the personification of glue, his resonant harmonies and concise tales provide refined support and sparkle. Max Roach, VIP bop veteran, incubator of the finest hard bop with Clifford Brown, balances fervent and delicate swing. His alert, melodic ear is virtually unparalleled. During the ensembles, the full, punchy sound of tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell blends well with the happy-blues-sounds of Jones, and Mitchell regularly chimes in with short, resonant, smoky statements.

To get you into this place where time stands still. Not a place that’s safe from the outside troubles, but perhaps instead a state wherein you chew on them, let them heat like hotcakes on a stove, live through them, to come out of them somehow cleansed. If that is the purpose of good jazz, April In Paris, the opening track of Thad Jones’ The Magnificent Thad Jones, is a winner. And winner takes all. There’s a loping gait to the standard of Vernon Duke and Edgar Harburg that’s exquisite, courtesy of the precise flow of bassist Percy Heath, the lush backing of pianist Barry Harris and the conversational coloring of Roach, who drives this band home with sensitive hi-hat and crystalline ride cymbal drumming.

And courtesy definitely of Thad Jones. If a diamond could blow, it would probably sound like Thad Jones on his second album for the Blue Note label. Moreover, the moving story of the trumpeter and future bandleader of the renowned Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra is a poignant amalgam of ideas strung together from series of keenly divided notes, the silence between them functioning as the apex of improvisational flow and coherence. It’s a story that runs over several choruses, and Jones keeps it simultaneously relaxed and intense, on a constant high level. His solo of Thedia, a beautiful, boppish, elongated line is longer still and an example of taste and sustained energy.

There’s something special about the trumpet sounds that Van Gelder recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey. Jones has become one of those angels blowing from the upper celestial plateau, the tone full and sensual like a female body on a Rubens painting, juicy like the flesh of the blissful orange, a perfect blend of sweet and sour. Yes, Charles Mingus said that Rudy van Gelder messed up everybody’s sound, depersonalized it through his innovative but all too strict methods. It’s a valid statement. But did Mingus mean it? This comes from a bandleader who told every sax player he worked with not to play like Charlie Parker. Yet Charles McPherson, a singular player yet more firmly steeped in the Parker tradition than most of his colleagues, played longer than anybody in the Mingus band except for drummer Danny Richmond. Regardless, the sound of ‘RVG horns’ and in this case, Thad Jones, is fantastic. The overall production is bliss. The execution, focus and mellow drive of the quintet are exceptional. The Magnificent Thad Jones is a perennial favorite for lovers of classic mainstream jazz and will undoubtedly attract newcomers for years to come.

Marius Beets This Is Your Captain Speaking (Maxanter 2018)

NEW RELEASE – MARIUS BEETS

The Dutch-American crew of bassist and composer Marius Beets delivers the outstanding This Is Your Captain Speaking.

Marius Beets - This Is Your Captain Speaking

Personnel

Marius Beets (bass), Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone), Joe Cohn (guitar), Peter Beets (piano), Willie Jones III (drums)

Recorded

on February 27 & 28, 2016 at Studio Smederij, Zeist, The Netherlands

Released

as Maxanter 74607 in 2018

Track listing

Dextro Energy
Brother Julian
El Capitano
The One And Only
Emandem
Tafkamp Is Still On The Scene
Carpe Diem
This Is Your Captain Speaking
The End Of The Affair
Moody’s Groove


Hypes come and go and boundaries are being crossed every time a Chinese tourist says cheese. It is easy to overlook that around the world real jazz albums also keep appearing with the regularity of the clock. Also in The Netherlands, which has a solid mainstream jazz scene, a great history of welcoming American musicians and, in the guise of Marius Beets, one of its most prominent bass players. Beets released This Is Your Captain Speaking on his Maxanter label. The album includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, pianist (and brother of Marius) Peter Beets, guitarist Joe Cohn and drummer Willie Jones III. They perform ten original compositions by bandleader Marius Beets.

So there’s the cream of the crop delivering high-level improvisation, swing and a healthy dose of blues, inspired by the catchy and challenging tunes of Marius Beets. Eric Alexander is a master of execution who loves to explore the sonic extremes of his instrument. His seemingly effortless integration of these idiosyncracies in his stories, in themselves an ongoing evaluation of the work of Alexander’s heroes like George Coleman and John Coltrane, is striking. He enlivens the boppish The End Of The Affair and the Latin-type line of Dextro Energy with hip twists and lurid fragments of scales. The ending of his remarkably crafty solo during This Is Your Captain Speaking, a clever, blues-based Horace Silver-ish tune, is a bossy bark that must’ve cracked up people in the studio.

62-year old Joe Cohn, the son of saxophonist Al Cohn, who uses a prickly yet full sound, is never short on ideas, which he strings together with staccato notes and supple single lines. He sets fire to Tafkamp Is Still On The Scene, a funky vamp that segues into a driving 4/4 section. The interaction of Marius and his brother Peter, internationally acclaimed pianist, is special, perhaps not surprising considering their life-long association. Emandem especially reveals their subtle interplay of bass lines.

The abundance of hard bop/post bop makes This Is Your Captain Speaking highly enjoyable. The funky ode to Cannonball Adderley, Brother Julian, boogaloo-based Moody’s Groove and The One And Only, an album highlight in the tradition of mid-sixties avant-leaning Blue Note point out the group’s versatile use of the mainstream jazz language. Besides, the group also plays sweet and light – El Capitano, Carpe Diem. The overall sound is, in fact, pleasantly light without becoming lightweight. The crisp and clear sound of the crackerjack drummer Willie Jones III’s ride cymbal underlines that particular canvas. It is a contemporary sound, but also has a foot in the past, the early 70s Muse/Strata-East ‘feel’ in particular. The album is recorded at the studio of Beets, who partakes in myriad musical activities beside bass playing.

You can count on Marius Beets, the bass player. He’s a tasteful, highly skilled accompanist with a tremendous bottom groove. Beets also delivers a number of melodic solos with sustained momentum. Not only did he write an album of superb tunes, he also picked a world-class crew. Not a trace of hesitation by these gentlemen. Dig those solo entrances, time and again! Those are a joy to listen to, as much as the excellent development of their stories.

Check out album info and the website of Marius Beets here.

Frank-ly Speaking

FRANK KOULEN – Porgy In de Polder is the compelling story of Frank Koulen, founder of jazz club Porgy en Bess in Terneuzen, The Netherlands.

Tjeu Strous - Porgy In De Polder

Journalist Tjeu Strous carefully maps out the life of Koulen, who grew up in poor conditions in heady, colonial Surinam, landed in Dutch Flanders in the latter stages of the Second World War, parading into Terneuzen with the Allied Forces. The only brown-skinned man in Terneuzen never looked back, fell in love, married and started lunchroom Porgy en Bess in 1957, which slowly but surely, and with many ups and downs, developed into a center for traditional New Orleans jazz, Dixieland and modern jazz. When one visited Porgy en Bess, one went to the welcoming host ‘The Negro’, renowned for shaking hands with every customer who entered his picturesque public house. It’s a nickname which nowadays would be viewed as unacceptable, instilled rather mixed feelings in the hearts of some of Koulen’s heirs but back then was a fairly innocent and endearing way of embracing the liberating spirit of the exotic entertainment guru.

Porgy In De Polder is a biography underlined by socio-cultural history. It is also, of course, the story of jazz club Porgy en Bess, a haven for the libidinous, restless youngsters in the sixties which brought the swing to the small harbor town of Terneuzen that it until then lacked. In Koulen’s lifetime ‘Porgy’ staged, among others, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cecil Payne, Eddie Boyd, Nathan Davis, Don Byas, Dave Pike, Ted Curson, Booker Ervin, Paul Bley, Chet Baker, Art Blakey and Boy Edgar with Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton and Art Taylor. After Koulen died in 1985 and friends, with the help of investors and the municipal and provincial departments re-built the club from scratch, Porgy en Bess grew in stature and hosted, among others, Arnett Cobb, Lou Donaldson, Phil Woods, Toots Thielemans, Jimmy Cobb, Al Cohn, George Coleman, Ray Brown, Ray Bryant, Lee Konitz, Charles McPherson, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Betty Carter, Astrid Gilberto, John Handy, Horace Parlan, Danilo Perez, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and Ambrose Akinmusire.

Porgy In De Polder by Tjeu Strous is published by Uitgevery Den Boer/De Ruiter. It is available here. Dutch language only.

Bill Leslie - Diggin' The Chicks

Bill Leslie Diggin’ The Chicks (Argo 1962)

Bill Leslie is diggin’ the chicks and we’re diggin’ the relaxed and intriguing style of the tenor saxophonist from Pennsylvania.

Bill Leslie - Diggin' The Chicks

Personnel

Bill Leslie (tenor saxophone, saxella B1), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Thornel Schwartz (guitar), Ben Tucker (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on October 19, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as Argo 710 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Goodnight Irene
Angel Eyes
Madge
Margie
Side B:
Lonely Woman
Got A Date With An Angel
Rosetta


Who is Bill Leslie? Well, he was born in Media, Pennsylvania in 1925 and passed away in 2003. For many years, Jennings played in the group of the popular and influential alto saxophonist and bandleader, Louis Jordan. In the early sixties, Jennings was featured on organist Larry Young’s Groove Street and guitarist Thornel Schwartz’ Soul Cookin’. Diggin’ The Chicks is Leslie’s only album as a leader. In the late sixties, Leslie led an organ combo. That’s about it as far as bio goes.

Yeah, ok. But who, really, is Bill Leslie? Here a straightforward answer won’t suffice. He’s a straightforward player, at ease in a conservative setting, yet picks notes that have one leapin’ sideways. He likes to play swing music with a breathy sound and bends notes like a country blues singer. At the same time, Leslie adds spare, effective bits of double-timing. Perhaps this kind of gelling isn’t that unusual for players who grew up in the 30s and 40s, when black popular music was still labeled as ‘race’ music and included traditional New Orleans jazz, gospel, jump blues, novelty and swing and, in the late 40s, while bebop was changing the face of jazz, black popular music with a driving back beat suddenly came to be labeled as rhythm&blues. Likely musicians (like, for instance, Gene Ammons or Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis) didn’t feel it was unusual to switch from race/jump/r&b to modern jazz. And almost as a rule, he or she’s got the blues and was raised in church. All of this is somehow reflected in his/hers style. Leslie also shows a liking for Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman. Get it? Anyhow, a quirky, fascinating player which in some magical way that only seems possible in the fantasy world of jazz, holds one spellbound with highly enjoyable, original notes and tones.

On Diggin’ The Chicks, a novelty title that clouds his message, Leslie is supported by Tommy Flanagan on piano, his friend Thornel Schwartz on guitar, Ben Tucker on bass and Art Taylor on drums. Schwartz serves as accompanist, while Flanagan, a receptive supporter, adds a number of delicate, coherent solos. Leslie is addressing a lot of female creatures, presenting tunes like Madge, Margie, (Earl Hines’) Rosetta, and playing standards like Angel Eyes and Got A Date With An Angel. Making his presence known with a lot of flair too. Not a loudmouth. Instead Leslie charms his way in like a gentleman. He’s taking his time, the leisurely stroll is Leslie’s favorite walk. And he’s adept at setting a homey atmosphere, smoothly luring the listener into a cozy place, the woodblocks in the fireplace quietly whispering, the cup of hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows all set on a low mahogany wooden side table… Then again it’s unlikely that Leslie will doze off, there’s a bite to his tone and he’s got bright ideas, is shaved, ready, with tie knotted, eager for a night out into town.

How charming an album when it includes both Goodnight Irene and an Ornette Coleman tune! Leslie picked Coleman’s Lonely Woman. Leslie’s pace is slower than Coleman’s, and bassist Ben Tucker plays a key role employing an attractive descending figure. Leslie uses the saxella. The vocalized sound is highly expressive, the twists and turns haunting. But if I was to pick one highlight, it would be his version of Huddie Ledbetter’s Goodnight Irene. The waltz figure of Art Taylor gives it a gentle but probing chuck-chuck-chucking push, Leslie’s genial tone, relaxed delivery, out-of-tempo bits and surprising choice of notes stay in one’s head long after the needle has jumped and the laundry has been done. It’s an unbelievable fate that Leslie’s career as a leader was finished before it started, but that’s the way it works sometimes.

Listen to the full album of Diggin’ The Chicks here. But try to grab one if you like it, it’s a crisp and punchy Rudy van Gelder recording. If Diggin’ The Chicks was on Blue Note, considering its beautiful production and outstanding line up, it would go for 4 or 5 times the amount of $ you have to lay down for this affordable Argo release.

Eric Alexander

Take Three with Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander picks some of his favorite recordings. “Do you want to go on a two-month vacation to discuss?!

Alexander, artist-in-residence at the Rabobank Amersfoort Jazz Festival from May 24-27, strolls through the square on a blistering hot Sunday evening, crisp and booming sounds from Henk Meutgeert’s Youth Orchestra emanating from the stage. He’s talking to the promising pianist Timothy Banchet, who listens intently. Erect posture, dark sunglasses, black suit. One could easily mistake Alexander for Vic Vega from Quinten Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The tenor saxophonist means business. But he also has a soft spot as the family man that he is at heart. “Playing acoustic jazz is a tremendous joy. If what I feel strongly about makes someone step out of his everyday routine, that’s a blessing. The greatest joy in my life other than being with my family.”

Now Alexander is backstage, buried in his chair. In between the festival’s Sunday jam sessions. “Then I’ll fly home on Tuesday and get to work on kicking this Grolsch habit. So, let’s focus on the records that I like and maybe a lot of people haven’t heard. Of course I can say I love A Love Supreme, but everybody will, and does. I’m going with the weird ones.”

Good idea. Join in?

“You know that record of Eddie Harris with Jimmy Smith, live at Keystone Corner? (All The Way Live, 1981, FM) The first tune (Alexander hums the line) is a blues in F, I forget the title. (You’ll See, FM) Eddie’s solo is outrageous. Most young players don’t even know who Eddie Harris is. That’s ridiculous. The man is a combination of sorts. He plays bebop, like Sonny Stitt at points. He plays so bluesy it hurts, he’s a real blues player. Then he is funky. And plays ‘out’. This blues in F might be one of the greatest blues-in-F-solos at this tempo ever.”

“Most people don’t know about Clifford Jordan’s Glass Bead Games. (Strata-East 1974) It’s epic. It eschews musical bullying, it’s totally organic. No musician is more important than the other one. They’re floating around like pals on a magic carpet. That’s interesting, because most groups aren’t like that.”

“Sonny Stitt? He did so many records, literally hundreds. Take the money and run. So there’s bound to be some lesser-known gem. Probably the greatest alto saxophone solo of an uptempo tune is I Know That You Know from the album New York Jazz. It includes Ray Brown and Papa Jo Jones (Verve 1956: it also includes pianist Jimmy Jones, FM) Ray Brown is challenging Sonny Stitt to see who’s going to rush, who’ll be more on top of the beat. Papa Jo is a bit freaked out and a little behind. That’s not his fault, he’s playing it where he wants it, but it’s Ray Brown and Sonny Stitt off to the races. It doesn’t matter though. The solo that Stitt plays… He never misses, does he? We’re talking about a hard tune to play, for a variety of reasons. The fast tempo is one of those. Stitt’s articulation and conception, the way he plays through the changes and his creativity are incredible.

“To this day, a lot of people talk Stitt down. I don’t understand it. They say, ‘well, he just plays perfect, that’s not hard and boring.’ Really? Well, you do that! I want to hear one of these people play four bars at this tempo like that. Opinions like these constitute one of the great, disgusting injustices perpetrated in jazz music. A lot of the time, the musicians are opinionated. They cold-shouldered Phineas Newborn, for instance. Cold music, supposedly. Well, you try it. Everything he plays is improvised. Same with Stitt, he’s improvising. Sure, he has pet phrases. Who hasn’t? But he never purposely played a wrong note, then fixed it, like Herbie Hancock. But I don’t give a shit. That’s not the way he played. His version of I Know That You Know is a masterpiece. This is sacrilegious: it’s an improvement of Bird. Well, nobody’s better than Bird. Bird is number one. But that solo is right up on Bird.”

Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander (49) is one of the most outstanding (hard) bop and post bop tenor saxophonists of his generation. Ever since finishing 2nd at the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition (behind Joshua Redman, in front of Chris Potter) and his apprenticeship with organ masters like Charles Earland, Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff in the early 90s, Alexander has been performing and recording very prolifically. He has released more than 40 albums as a leader, is featured on at least 100 albums as a sideman and has cooperated with, among others, Harold Mabern, George Coleman, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Cecil Payne, Cedar Walton, Junior Mance, Melvin Rhyne, Charles Earland, Idris Muhammad, Pat Martino, Rein de Graaff, Mike LeDonne, David Hazeltine, Grant Stewart and Jim Rotundi. The New York-based Alexander regularly performs abroad and is a mainstay in The Netherlands.

Selected discography:

As a leader:
Straight Up (Delmark 1992)
The First Milestone (Milestone 1999)
Wide Horizons (with One For All, Criss Cross 2002)
Dead Centre (HighNote 2004)
Song Of No Regrets (HighNote 2017)

As a sideman:
Charles Earland, I Ain’t Jivin’, I’m Jammin’ (Muse 1992)
Pat Martino, Stone Blue (Blue Note 1999)
Jimmy Cobb, Cobb’s Groove (Milestone 2003)
Mike LeDonne/The Groover Quartet, Keep The Faith (Savant 2011)
Harold Mabern, To Love And Be Loved (Smoke Sessions 2017)

Go to the website of Eric Alexander here.

Pure Goldings

LARRY GOLDINGS/PETER BERNSTEIN/BILL STEWART IN CONCERT – Wear and tear is not in the dictionary of Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart. They continue to pass on sophisticated organ jazz to the next generation.

The organ jazz trio of organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart has been in existence for approximately 30 years. As one is liable to say, the participants in this challenging endeavor have probably been seeing more of each other than their wives at home. Corny joke. And not the kind of crack that pianist, organist and composer Larry Goldings, who functions as a dryly comic master of ceremony, would make. He is one that readily admits having stumbled upon a quasi-funny loose end. Mr. Goldings is more likely seen tapping his fingers along boyishly with the static crackle of the iPhone that resides at the edge of the keyboard of his vintage Hammond B3 organ. His wife, perhaps.

No corny jokes and few loose ends during the trio’s musical conversation at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, ‘the best place for live music in Europe’. A good-humorous side to its hi-level musicianship, nonetheless. These gentlemen have the audience eating out of their hands. Basically, the core of their repertory is an expansion of Larry Young’s music. Larry Young is the last great organ jazz innovator who made his groundbreaking, Coltrane-influenced albums on Blue Note in the mid-sixties with, among others, Grant Green and Elvin Jones. Partly modal, partly vamp, compositions like Bernstein’s Just A Thought and Dragonfly, Stewart’s Don’t Ever Call Me Again and Goldings’ Mixed Message fall into this category. It’s their bread and butter and particularly exciting during the second set, when they have decidedly switched to second gear. Or better said, fourth. In this fast lane, Bernstein picked his composition Giant Coffee, a funkified Take Five, as a canvas for his meanest blues-based licks.

Goldings is a master at coaxing all kinds of sounds out of the organ, more often than not during the course of one of his well-crafted solos, providing layered textures and sustained momentum. Peter Bernstein’s tone, ringing with crystalline clarity, is a marvel and, with the remarkable thoughtfulness we’ve come to associate him with, he picks ideas out of the air like someone devouring myriad M&M’s. In this setting, Bill Stewart is his usual roaring but receptive self. The unannounced solo performance by Goldings, a sweet and sour sermon right out of the church where Aretha Franklin’s dad preached, takes everyone by surprise.

Tincture is on the other side of the spectrum and wouldn’t be out of place on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch or Tony Williams’ Emergency. Written by Bill Stewart, its shifting tempos and eclectic harmonic movements invite the trio to partake in some moments of pure invention. No chaos, but uncluttered energy. Wouldn’t have hurt to hear more where that came from. Considering the enthusiastic ovation at the end of the evening, the audience not only liked this part but the whole sum that was delivered by this trio of contemporary American masters.

Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart

Place and date: Bimhuis, Amsterdam, May 31, 2018
Line-up: Larry Goldings (Hammond organ), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Bill Stewart (drums)
Website: Larry Goldings.

Hampton Hawes - This Is Hampton Hawes

Hampton Hawes This Is Hampton Hawes (Contemporary 1956)

This, indeed, is Hampton Hawes. The coolest smokin’ cover. Immaculate, intense bebop. The pianist in full flight, a few years before the life of the addicted Hawes would take a tragic turn.

Hampton Hawes - This Is Hampton Hawes

Personnel

Hampton Hawes (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), Chuck Thompson (drums)

Recorded

on December 3, 1955 and January 25, 1956 at Contemporary Studio, Los Angeles and June 28, 1955 at Los Angeles Police Academy, Chavez Ravine

Released

as C3515 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
You And The Night And The Music
Stella By Starlight
Blues For Jacque
Yesterdays
Side B:
Steeplechase
Round About Midnight
Just Squeeze Me
Autumn In New York


Now here’s a pianist that warrants more copy than is usually dedicated to him. On par with likeminded players from the generation that followed Bud Powell, Hampton’s jail sentence from 1959 to 1963 was an obstacle to the road to recognition. The vintage years of hard bop went by him, by and large. To name a few, Sonny Clark burnt bright, didn’t fade away, becoming one of the legends of jazz music after he tragically overdosed. Horace Silver set the vintage years in motion, delivering one catchy, clever tune after another. Red Garland’s claim to fame involved his stint with the First Great Miles Davis Quintet.

That is not to say that the playing of Hawes hasn’t find its way to jazz fans around the globe and to many contemporary musicians somehow. Neo-boppers, as expected. On the other side of the spectrum, there are fans like Matthew Shipp. And Ethan Iverson. Here’s what the eclectic pianist with the unwavering curiosity in and broad knowledge of the tradition and anything musically challenging has to say about Hawes: ‘Even though Hampton Hawes had a strong and urgent touch, there was always air around his lines. He seemed to breathe his bluesy bebop into the piano. Along with many others, Hawes took Bud Powell and Charlie Parker and blended it with the pastel colors found in California, although Hawes’ unpretentious virtuosity and perfect jazz beat stood out among his West Coast brethren.’

It is also not to say that Hawes isn’t, on some level, ‘famous’. Or, was. On the contrary. Hawes was born in Los Angeles in 1920 to a father that was a minister and a mother that was a church pianist of the Presbyterian Church. Like so many beboppers, he was seriously addicted to heroin. In 1958, undercover Feds arrested Hawes, white supremacy everywhere, the jazz musician a ‘degenerate evil to society’, who refused to snitch on fellow users and dealers. Hawes got an unbelievable 10-year sentence. In between his trial and sentence, the pianist recorded The Sermon, a telling reflection of the man’s fear, desperation, and what seemed idle hope of better days. Regardless, during his third year in jail, seeing the new President in office, the good looking, emphatic John F. Kennedy, Hawes decided to request for a pardon. Lo and behold, as one of very few, a mere 43 that year, he was released by JFK in 1963.

Mr. Hawes subsequently reaped what he sowed, playing to admiring crowds in Europe and Asia, deepening his modern jazz conception on, for instance, superb Enja albums, and delving into electronic (Fender Rhodes) playing in the process. His biography Raise Up Off Me, published in 1974, is classic jazz literature, perhaps best likened to Art Pepper’s Straight Life. Hawes passed away untimely in 1977.

Hawes’ series of Contemporary albums in the mid-and late fifties are among the period’s finest bop and hard bop releases, not least the All Night Session Volume 1-3 live LP’s. Hawes began the series in 1955 with his debut The Trio Volume 1. His second album This Is Hampton Hawes, recorded in December 1955 and January 1956, is subtitled The Trio Volume 2. Same trio – Hawes, bassist Red Mitchell, drummer Chuck Thompson – same procedures: a remarkably fresh, original take on standards, ballads, blues and a few self-penned compositions. The latter’s list consists of You And The Night And The Music, Stella By Starlight, Yesterdays, Autumn In New York, Monk’s Round About Midnight, Parker’s Steeplechase, Duke Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me and the Hawes composition, Blues For Jacque.

Like the masters of bop, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, often Hawes is pure energy, dashing off streams of notes that dart this way, that way, seldom ending up in a rot, instead tied together in bundles that reveal the quickest harmonic mind. Long, spirited sentences. Immaculate pace. The gospel, so prevalent in his youth, is definitely under the surface of a style that is carried out with a decisive touch, the touch of a carpenter with a passion for the craft. Bits of bebop’s mid-and post-war angst, the cultish, dedicated stress on beauty and sophistication as the antidote to the black man’s struggle still shining through. But never, like the less talented players, panicky. As Iverson says: air. In a sense, Hawes might be called one of few players who played the Bud Powell stuff that, because of his mental problems, Bud Powell himself wasn’t able to anymore in the post bop era.

The piano as a horn. Hawes blows, his refreshing breeze and gusty winds are still fresh after all these years.