Hampton Hawes: Trios And Quartets

Another release in Contemporary's reissue series captures the Powell-inspired pianist in company with Harold Land, Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and others

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Hampton Hawes as recorded by Contemporary in the 1950s was Bud Powell airborne and in all-systems-go orbit. The opening I Got Rhythm on this compilation might serve as an unstoppable mission statement, so quick and intense that for a couple of seconds towards the end of the relentless chorus chase he falters.

But Hawes was far more than a super-charged tapper of single-note figurations, in his most popular trio format as much as in the quartets, both recalled here. With 15 tracks offering almost 80 minutes of music to download, this is one of the first five releases by Craft Recordings from the Contemporary archive that also includes music by Barney Kessel, Art Pepper, André Previn and Shelly Manne.

Bizarrely for a big commercial reissue, the personnel listings have to be researched. Only Hawes is named in the eight trio recordings. His fans will know who’s who, but that’s not the point. The colleagues are probably Red Mitchell and Chuck Thompson. Some tracks named only as “Hampton Hawes” turn out to be trio performances. And some quartet tracks, but not all, name the other musicians involved. It’s a bow-wow’s breakfast. There’s no indication of precisely when and where the recordings were made or of the albums on which they first appeared, though they are pictured: Hampton Hawes Trio, For Real! and Four! The last two were the quartet recordings.

Hampton’s Pulpit is a quartet number with only Hawes listed. Elsewhere, the foursome is Hawes, Barney Kessel, Mitchell and Shelly Manne. But Hawes also recorded this chart as a quartet with Jim Hall, Mitchell and drummer Eldridge Freeman. It’s pretty obvious who’s involved if you’re a devotee. Kessel plays no forward role on Like Someone In Love, which is virtually a piano-only feature; he strums and Manne adds a little cymbal sizzle at start and finish. This track also demonstrates that no part of the piano keyboard was foreign to the pianist, whose brand of astringent muscularity still elbows its way down the decades. That he could relent for a mid-tempo ballad such as Autumn In New York – its opening and closing bass-drums repetition reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal – and add bouquets of flourishes was a measure of his restless versatility.

Discography
I Got Rhythm; Hip; Autumn In New York; The Champ; Blues The Most; Like Someone In Love; You And The Night And The Music; Hampton’s Pulpit; Yardbird Suite; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Broadway; Morning; I Love You; ’Round Midnight; Carioca (83.53)
Hawes (p); with, among others, Harold Land (ts); Red Mitchell, Scott LaFaro (b); Shelly Manne, Frank Butler (d); Barney Kessel (g). Los Angeles, 1950s. No other information.
Contemporary/Craft Recordings, digital only