"A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house." Hampton Hawes would be the first to endorse the sentiment behind that biblical quotation when it is applied to jazz and jazzmen. He left Los Angeles in September, 1967 on a world-wide tour which lasted nine months and took in England, France, West Germany (and a brief visit to Berlin), Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and Hawaii. Prior to the tour he had been scuffling for work in California and had made one record a year under his own name. Abroad he made seven albums in nine months. "Would you believe I recorded for Columbia and RCA in the same week in Japan" he told Harvey Siders of 'Down Beat'. "I couldn't even tell you what street either company is on in Hollywood!"
Hamp was not the first American jazz musician to be amazed at the quality and quantity of his reception in Europe. "When I got there it was a big deal. Here was a major jazz artist from the United States, so they recorded me. The way they received me there, it gave me more self-respect." Nevertheless he looked on himself as a native Angelino. "I wouldn't mind going to Europe for a trip. You know, go on a tour and make some bread, but I have no intention of living there. No, not me. I live at 1-9-3-0-7 Broadacres, in Compton, and that's were I'm going to stay."
Hampton Hawes was born in Los Angeles on November 13, 1928 and died there on May 22nd, 1977. His father was a clergyman and his mother played piano for a Los Angeles church choir. Piano music was an important part of his formative years. He started playing professionally when he was still at High School. He would leave the school building and go to work with tenor saxophonist Big Jay McNeely's band. (McNeely was the man who perfected the art of removing his jacket and lying on the floor while playing, without missing a note.) Hawes spent the latter half of the nineteen-forties working within the Los Angeles city limits, acting as accompanist to all manner of jazz soloists on club dates including Charlie Parker, Howard McGhee and teddy Edwards. "Bird used to run around waking everyone up and getting them to jam," Hawes told Leonard Feather. "It was exciting and I enjoyed it. That was my school - the streets. We weren't making any money, but it was a groove."
It was the direct influence of Charlie Parker which was the strongest and most obvious in Hawes's playing. Many jazz pianists of his age-group have been influenced by Bird but usually via the keyboard work of the late Bud Powell. But Hampton Hawes goes back to the fountain-head. The unexpected but brilliantly played runs of semi-quavers which are inserted into his melodic line come from Parker, a man who was always at ease with tempo and time. Looming as large as the considerable shadow of Bird is the strong effect of the blues on Hawes' playing. During the nineteen-fifties, when words like funky, hard-bop and gospel were being scattered across the printed page, Hawes was, quite incorrectly, pitch-forked into the same pigeon-hole as pianists such as Bobby Timmons and Les McCann. The fact is, of course, that Hawes was always very much his own man and never joined a "school" simply because it was fashionable. At the same time his ears were open to music in its broadest sense and he had the kind of natural, built-in good taste which enabled him to be selective. "Some guys are reluctant to play something because it has been played by someone else" he told Leonard Feather in 1966. "There's no room for that kind of attitude. André Previn used to listen to me and he liked what I did and maybe used some of it. Well, in the same way I like to listen to other cats play. I like what Bill Evans does, and if I can hear something in his work that I think is groovy, I'm going to use it. I'm sure he would do the same thing - in fact, Bill and I have discussed this."
During his world tour he impressed listeners and fellow musicians alike with his dextrousness at the keyboard, his brittle touch and brilliant attack. He made this recording in Paris where he was able to take advantage of the presence of two expatriate American jazz musicians. He told Harvey Siders later "the best record I made in Europe was with Arthur Taylor and Jimmy Woode." The trio format is one which suited him well and when he had two sidemen of the Taylor-Woode calibre then he was likely to produce jazz of a very high order.
Such is the case here. The programme opens with a typical Hawes blues, Blues Enough, which possesses a simple opening figure reminiscent of the main phrase from the song Never Let Me Go. But the simple phrase is only a prelude to a crisp and sometimes furious excursion through the blues changes. Hampton's fingering is fast and clean, Taylor's drumming has a clipped, terse quality well suited tot he mood of the performance and Hawes feeds a number of telling rhythmic figures to the drummer who quickly picks up their significance and hammers them home with side-drum accents. Hawes moves smoothly into a couple of choruses using the altered blues chords (the ones usually identified as Ray Bryant's Blues Changes) before bass and drums remain tacit for twenty-four bars. It is here that Hawes reveals an extremely strong left hand and uses it in the manner of Art Tatum. The blues form the basis of any Hampton Hawes programme although sometimes disguised. Black Forest is a blues with a difference in the sense that the opening theme is twelve bars long but is not based strictly on the blues chords. This is a technique which Hawes has used before; in fact his tune Suddenly I Thought Of You from his Contemporary album "The Seance" follows the pattern. On Black Forest the pianist builds to logical and block-chorded climaxes which bring Red Garland to mind for a short while.
As a composer Hampton Hawes has put his name to a number of works but it is doubtful if he has ever written a more mature-sounding tune than Sonora, a melody which asks for someone to add an adult lyric. The rhythm section is loose and fluid on this lovely waltz-time tune with its bebop cadences at the end of each chorus. Melody has always played a big part in Hawes's playing and he loves a good tune on which to base his improvisations. The lengthy My Romance is one of his favourite songs. He recorded it once before on "The Seance" album when he wrote that it is "a ballad which can be played as such or at medium tempo. Anyone improvising on this tune should stay close to the original harmony."
As the closing notes of My Romance die away the listener realises that Hawes told only a part of the truth when he said that this was "the best record I made in Europe." In fact it is one of the best records he made on any continent.
1. Blues Enough
2. Sonora 4:56
3. They Say It's Wonderful 3:23 **
4. Black Forest (Take 3) 6:07
5. Children's Play 9:17 **
6. Blues For Bud 6:58 **
7. Spanish Steps (Take 2) 3:17
8. Dangerous 4:29
9. My Romance 9:02
10. Spanish Steps (Take 1) 2:39 *
11. Black Forrest (Take 1) 5:43 *
HAMPTON HAWES (Piano)
JIMMY WOODE (Bass)
ARTHUR TAYLOR (Drums)