Hampton Hawes – The Trio, Vol. 1

The old blog has been generating far too much traffic over the last couple of weeks so I thought I’d try to calm things down by posting something about Jazz (which usually scares the traffic away). I was listening this album the other day and thought I’d write about it because the pianist concerned Hampton Hawes is so underrated.

The Trio – Vol. 1  was Hawes’s first LP under his own name and it proved to be the start of a long and successful association with Contemporary Records. Hawes’s playing has been described as a more-or-less literal keyboard transcription of Charlie Parker and indeed his lines do sound more like Parker than those of Bud Powell, the archetypal bebop pianist. Indeed Hawes stated that Powell had never really been influence, or at least not as much of an influence as he had been on the rest of his generation of jazz pianists. Like Charlie Parker, Hawes had a great gift for playing the blues and even when not actually playing standard 12-bar blues material he somehow managed to make almost everything he played sound like the blues; a great example from this album is the ballad Easy Livin’ which Hawes augments by inserting some blues phrases into the melody. There are three “orthodox” blues tracks on the album, although one of them Feelin’ Fine is based on an altered chord progression.

Fast tempi gave Hawes very few problems. On the album he seems completely comfortable maintaining the logic and continuity of his improvisations even while playing at about 80 bars to the minute.  I Got Rhythm is taken at a very brisk pace but Hawes is always master of the situation. The track I’ve picked from Youtube, the great Jerome Kern standard All The Things You Are, the chords of which lurk underneath a great many bebop tunes, is very different, with an out-of-tempo introduction picking up into the jaunty medium pace “bounce” that’s very characteristic of the bebop era.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Hampton Hawes was head and shoulders above most of his competitors. Red Mitchell (bass) and Chuck Thompson (drums) remained his colleagues for years, which is no doubt why their playing is so together.

 

 

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