One of the best of the hard bop piano players in the West Coast jazz scene, Hampton Hawes made a splash with a series of impressive trio records cut during the latter half of the '50s. Hawes sprung from Bud Powell's bebop innovations and soon showed equal panache with both brisk swingers and romantic ballads. After coming up though Los Angeles bands led by Shorty Rogers and Howard McGhee and playing with other West Coast bebop stars like Sonny Criss, Dexter Gordon, and Wardell Gray, Hawes hooked up with bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Chuck Thompson for several fresh and accomplished titles on the Contemporary label. This early release from 1955 finds the trio coming up with their usual mix of originals and standards. Highlights include fine readings of "Stella by Starlight" and "You and the Night and the Music," as well a breakneck cover of Charlie Parker's "Steeplechase." Hawes shows off some writing muscle on his "Blues for Jacque," while Mitchell and Thompson come up with the album closer "Section Blues." Topped off with entertaining and informative liner notes by Ralph Gleason, this Hampton Hawes date would certainly make good company for any other top jazz piano trio records in your collection.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook