Hampton Hawes: Three Classic Albums Plus…

The pianist plays spirited, inventive and immaculate Bud-Powell-influenced bop confections on some of his finest albums for Contemporary

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After a prolific recording career on the West Coast in the 1950s and 60s, bop pianist Hampton Hawes (1928-1977) temporarily dropped out of sight – partly because of his conviction and imprisonment for five years on drugs charges. Remarkably, he petitioned President Kennedy in 1963 and received a pardon.

He gradually returned to the club scene and recording studios, and released the critically praised The Green Leaves Of Summer (1964) with bassist Monk Montgomery and drummer Steve Ellington. In 1974 he published his raw autobiography Raise Up Off Me (with Don Asher), which includes reflections on his incarceration and an ambivalent relationship with Charlie Parker.

This Avid release includes reissues of some of his finest albums for the Contemporary label plus an abridged version of Everybody Loves Hampton Hawes: Trio Vol. 3. There is little to choose between them. Throughout, he creates spirited, inventive and immaculate Bud-Powell-influenced bop confections, usually accompanied by his trustworthy compatriots Barney Kessel, Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne.

On The Trio Vol. 2 – For Real! he was joined by tenorist Harold Land, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Frank Butler. Together they perform such well-known classics as Somebody Loves Me, Embraceable You and Body And Soul. LaFaro is at his superb best, while Land obviously relished the date. 

Four!, with a cover photo of four unconvincingly posed golfers, is particularly rewarding. Reviewing the album for JJ, Richard Palmer characterised it as “top rank chamber jazz, beautifully structured, [and] carefully worked out for each man”. He added: “Hawes, the nominal leader, is also the star . . . his lines vaguely Silver-esque but with a personality and touch that is all his own.” There Will Never Be Another You and Up Blues (a Hawes original) are highly recommended. Two numbers from the original LP – Thou Swell and The Awful Truth – are not included in this compilation.

That said, with informative (if microscopic) essays by Nat Hentoff, Ralph J. Gleason, Leonard Feather and John S. Wilson, this is a welcome collection of early (but distinctive) performances by an unfairly neglected pianist.

Discography
CD1: [Four!] (1) Yardbird Suite; There Will Never Be Another You; Bow Jest; Sweet Sue; Up Blues; Like Someone In Love; Love Is Around The Corner; [This Is Hampton Hawes: The Trio Vol 2] (2) You And The Night And The Music; Stella By Starlight; Blues For Jacque; Yesterdays; Steeplechase; ’Round Midnight; Just Squeeze Me; Autumn In New York; Section Blues (82.33)
CD2: [For Real!] (3) Hip; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Crazeology; Numbers Game; For Real; I Love You; [Everybody Loves Hampton Hawes – The Trio Vol 3] (4) Somebody Loves Me; The Sermon; Embraceable You; I Remember You; A Night In Tunisia; Billy Boy; Body And Soul; Coolin’ The Blues (80.04)
Hawes (p) on all tracks with:
(1) Barney Kessel (g); Red Mitchell (b); Shelly Manne (d). Los Angeles, 27 January 1958.
(2) Red Mitchell (b); Chuck Thomson (d). Los Angeles, 28 June 1955, 3 December 1955, 25 January 1956.
(3) Harold Land (ts); Scott LaFaro (b); Frank Butler (d). Los Angeles, 17 March 1958.
(4) Red Mitchell (b); Chuck Thompson (d). Los Angeles, 25 January 1956.
(Note: Lover Come Back To Me and Polka Dots And Moonbeams on the original The Trio Vol 3 album are not included.)
Avid Jazz AMSC1416