Alexander Hawkins Trio - Alexander Hawkins Trio
(Alexander Hawkins Music. AH1001. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield.)
Alexander Hawkins is a familiar performer around London, regularly playing at venues like the Vortex and Cafe Oto, in bands with such luminaries as Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker, but this is the first recording of his regular trio.
It is contemporary and exploratory whilst paying respect and gratitude those who came before. There are hints of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, even a nod to John Taylor, as well as many pianists who are further "out there".
The CD is bookended with Tom Skinner's drums, which open Sweet Duke. But the Duke Hawkins is emulating here is Ellington's venture into the avant garde, Money Jungle, his record with Max Roach and Charles Mingus in which he lay down his improvising credentials. Hawkins' trio, completed by Neil Charles on bass, make new music evoking old: definitely not a pastiche, Sweet Duke is fresh and exciting, and sets the standard for the CD.
Elsewhere the trio explore lots of musical avenues. In places the notes cascade and scatter from Hawkins' keyboard, reminiscent perhaps of Cecil Taylor; in others, there is some of the nervous jerkiness of Andrew Hill. There is a real feeling of catching the musicians in the act of improvising: recording improvised music can often seem like an oxymoron, and can sometimes be difficult to listen to, but Hawkins and his colleagues have captured the excitement of improvisation whilst making it listenable.
The closing number, Blue Notes for a Blue Note, is dedicated to Moholo, who was the drummer in the South African sextet The Blue Notes. It starts with an elegiac piano solo, before an energetic Skinner joins in, and, later, Charles on bass, changing the mood until Skinner finishes the track alone, one drummer to another.
This is a fine record, full of zest and imagination, and exciting music.
LINK: Review of CD Song Singular for solo piano from 2014 (Babel)