Hampton Hawes

Bird Song

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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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