Like Falling, Like Fire: Alexander Hawkins in 2015


alexander hawkinsToday’s feature is something old and something(s) new from UK pianist Alexander Hawkins.  His 2014 release Step Wide Step Deep received the #17 slot on this site’s Best of 2014 list, and he followed that up with a few new efforts in 2015 that built on that success.

The first two albums covered in this column are a trio session and a new one from his Convergence Quartet, and both are new to the world in 2015.  The third album mentioned, Slow and Steady, originally saw light of day a few years back, but this appears to be its first digital release.

In any event, this is all top-notch music you should know about.

Let’s begin…


Alexander Hawkins – Alexander Hawkins Trio

Alexander Hawkins TrioNobody elicits a sense of elegance from the motion of tumbling down a flight of stairs quite like pianist Alexander Hawkins.  His 2015 trio recording, Alexander Hawkins Trio, provides the evidence of this claim right from the start.  For all of its rambunctious motion, “Sweet Duke” is as carefree and light-hearted as an afternoon stroll through the park.  And even though the blur of “Song Singular – Owl (friendly) – Canon” is more pronounced in the weight of its footfalls, the quality of a noble elegance remains.  And “One Tree Found” shows how the crosscurrents of a loping cadence and melodic twirls present no challenge to his stoicism.  This truth holds even in the torrential downpour of “Perhaps 5 or 6 Different Colours.”

“40HB (for Taylor Ho Bynum)” returns to a state of captivating motion.  It epitomizes much of Hawkins’ music, and the recurring question that logically must be asked:  “How is this song even holding itself together.”  And yet it does, time and time again, next charting that course with the fascinating “Baobabs + SGrA*”  For a change of pace, “AHRA” doesn’t risk fraying its seams while transitioning from somber to solemn.  But this is only temporary, as Hawkins closes the album out with the thrilling “Blue Notes for a Blue Note (Joy To You),” a song that storms and thrashes, and as is so often the case with a Hawkins composition, it expresses an innate tunefulness tied to something more traditional and never more than a few heartbeats away from the blues.

Your album personnel:  Alexander Hawkins (piano), Neil Charles (double bass) and Tom Skinner (drums, percussion).

The album is Self-Produced.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at:  BandcampAmazon


The Convergence Quartet – Owl Jacket

Convergence Quartet - "Owl Jacket"Owl Jacket marks the fourth release from the quartet of pianist Alexander Hawkins, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, bassist Dominic Lash and drummer Harris Eisenstadt.  It’s an excellent recording when judged all on its own, but for those who are familiar with their past work, it’s rewarding to hear just how much they’ve synched up with the visions of one another.  Also, new aspects of their personality as a working unit emerge on this recording.

The album begins with the riveting “Dogbe Na Wo Lo,” a song guided into a lovely confluence of melody and motion.  The motion of subsequent track “Jacket” takes the music from one of flowing water to something more akin to drifting clouds.  Bynum’s cornet provides the song its only sense of motion until the skies turn grey and that drifting cloud begins pouring sheets of rain.  The charming “Coyote” brings the album back down to earth.  The tune’s awkward dancing motion keeps jarring the melody loose, sending it bouncing around the surface of the tempo.  “Owl” is the first significant advance by the quartet in the direction of the combustibility they’ve consistently displayed on previous recordings, but even here, the hyperactivity gives way to calmer imagery and a flirtation with peacefulness.  “Azalpho” just sort of ambles along whistling its melody until Eisenstadt’s drum flurries draw the focus to the steps taken and the way ahead.  The album ends as it began with the West African influence of “Mamady Wo Murado Sa,” but where the album-opener guided melody and tempo into a seamless flow of tunefulness and groove, the concluding track flips that approach on its head and celebrates the divergent qualities of the elements.  One is no less compelling than the other.

Your album personnel:  Alexander Hawkins (piano), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Harris Eisenstadt (drums) and Dominic Lash (double bass).

Released in 2015 on the NoBusiness Records label.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at:  Bandcamp


The Convergence Quartet – Slow and Steady

Convergence Quartet - "Slow and Steady"Slow and Steady was originally recorded back on November 2011 at the Vortex Jazz Club as part of the London Jazz Festival.  The album opens with combustion, first with “Assemble Melancholy” and then right into “Third Convergence,” which is why it’s almost stunning when the quartet breaks into a gently melodic passage on the latter track, continuing to captivate in the way the tempo is only ever brought back up to a rapid simmer until the home stretch when it returns to its combustible state.  And on “Remember Raoul/Piano Part Two,” the quartet arrives at the blues, but then take some winding back-roads on the way out of town.  On “equals/understand (totem),” the quartet keeps to the main thoroughfare of modern post-bop, but repeatedly careens up and over the curbs and onto the sidewalks.  On the other hand, the drone and cry of “Oat Roe + Three by Three” is more a dream of action than any actual semblance of motion.  It’s more of the same transitions of intensity and texture that color “The Taff End,” so when they close the show out with the gentle moonlight of title-track “Slow and Steady,” the suddenness and breadth of change gives the impression of a sound no less big and evocative than this music at its most aggressive.  Of particular interest is that where this album leaves off, years later is where Owl Jacket picks right back up.

Your album personnel:  Alexander Hawkins (piano), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Harris Eisenstadt (drums) and Dominic Lash (double bass).

Released in 2013 on the NoBusiness Records label.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon