Bird Songby Hampton Hawes
The essence of this set is Charlie Parker's numerous variations on "I Got Rhythm" and Parker's key blues-based tunes, such as "Confirmation." The result is a spirited, highly communicative session, where pianist Hampton Hawes gets to the core of the bop idiom. It's a mystery why these tracks from 1956 and 1958 went unreleased until 1999. They come from a key creative period in Hawes' career when he was enjoying new levels of commercial and critical acclaim. Regardless, the music has now been done justice in a well-mastered release that will please fans of Hawes and of bop piano in general. From a lesser artist, the dry, unadorned, direct style at the center of Hawes' playing could expose technical vulnerabilities. In Hawes' case, it exposes a natural, fluent grace of phrasing and rhythm. Each track is a freshly interpreted joy ride across familiar chord changes. Bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Larance Marable, not Hawes' regular partners from this period, are prominent, supportive parts of the pianist's heartbeat. Besides the Parker originals and Parker-derived themes, there are fine versions of several standards, "Yesterdays" and "Stella by Starlight" being just two deliriously swinging highlights. The three tracks from a 1958 date, with Scott LaFaro on bass and Frank Butler on drums, maintain the same joyous pulse of the earlier tracks.
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As co-compiler (with Roger Hunter of London, England) of the Hamp Hawes bio-discography back in 1986, and liner-note writer of Hamp Hawes' 'The Sermon' LP (now issued on CD)I have some knowledge of the recording career of the Los Angeles piano giant. The liner notes and personnel to this CD are, regretably, shot through with errors. Firstly: the title song is not Thad Jones's 'Bird Song'. The Jones' composition was a standard AABA one. Here it is actually a Hamp Hawes original 12-bar blues which is properly called, 'Bird's Song'. Secondly: Scott La Faro and Frank Butler do not (repeat not) appear anywhere on this album. Here is the correct personnel/title listing: 'Big Foot', 'I Should Care', 'Yesterdays', Just one of those things', 'Cheryl' - Hawes, piano; Red Mitchell, bass; Chuck Thompson, drs. Rec: LA Police Academy Chavez Ravine, June 28th 1955. 'Ray's Idea', 'Stella by Starlight', 'Bird's Song' - same personnel, 12th September 1955, Los Angeles. 'Blues for Jacque', 'What's New', 'I'll remember April', 'Blue 'N Boogie' - Hawes, piano, Paul Chambers, bass, Lawrence Marable or Billy Higgins, drums. Rec: LA probably late 1956 or early 1957. My colleague Roger Hunter spoke at length with Red Mitchell during the compilation of our Hawes book.. Mitchell told of the session with Hamp and Chambers. He thought perhaps Billy Higgins was there on drums but could not be certain of this. He said the session ended prematurely because in his words, 'They couldn't get it together' so Les Koenig (Contemporary's boss) brought it to a swift close. A number of authoritative voices have told Fantasy Records of their errors to the information on the sleeve. From Hunter and myself, to Luca Conti of Florence, Italy, and Noal Cohen of New Jersey. Fantasy will not concede that they have made a mistake. ....Mike Davis (co-author of Hampton Hawes: A Discography. Published by Manana Publications, Manchester, England 1986.