Hampton Hawes

Blues the Most

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The often nervously brittle, yet always swinging bop piano of Hampton Hawes is constantly on display in this 75-minute wrapup of blues tunes dating from his prime mid-'50s period, with one detour to his last session in 1976. Five of the tracks are trio sessions, with West Coast mavens like Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Chuck Thompson and Shelly Manne takin' care of business in a state of maximum swing. Harold Land pokes his fluid tenor into "Hip" and "The Sermon" (with Scott LaFaro on bass) and guitarists Barney Kessel and Jim Hall appear on two tracks apiece, so there is sufficient contrast in this all-blues session. Hawes' edge is somewhat smoothed out, and the harmonies acquire a modal touch on the sole 1976 entry "Soul Sign Plus Eight." And even when Hawes uses the most obvious bop clich├ęs at a fast tempo on "Up Blues," you must admit, he executes them beautifully and never loses touch with the groove. Everything here has been out on CD before.

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