Hampton Hawes For Real! (1958) Contemporary US


Selection: Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Moll, Koehler, Barris)


Harold Land (ts) Hampton Hawes (p) Scott LaFaro (b) Frank Butler (d) recorded Los Angeles, CA, March 17, 1958, engineer Roy DuNann

Year: 1958

1958London,1958,  Britain’s first parking meter is installed. Soon the queue of cars waiting to park at it stretches as far back as Birmingham; several more are put on order; America launches first monkey into space. Monkey likes it, waves hands in air on re-entry, and asks if it can stay on for another ride.


A distinctive West Coast voice of bop piano, Hawes’ style is instantly recognizable for its infectious bluesy swing, and mastery of time and harmony. If his biographers are to be believed, Hawes was born with six fingers on each hand, corrected quickly by surgery. With hindsight one can only imagine the advantage of this could have conferred on a number of musical directions, and we ain’t talkin’ ukele.  Horn-players like Sonny Stitt only sound like they have six fingers on each hand. Here was a case of some one who actually had six fingers, if briefly. .

Hawes gives ample space here to one of my favourite West Coast tenors, Harold Land, not a unique stylist, but a player who always punches his weight, and sounds here very at home with Hawes swing. Also present on duty, Scott LaFaro on bass , another great talent lost to music not long after in an automobile accident. Great line up completes with the excellent Frank Butler, who is also found on Curtis Counce, Elmo Hope and some Art Pepper recordings. It’s all very West Coast School – sun sand sea and blue sky – but a welcome occasional change from the darkness of New York .

Hawes was yet another victim of the war on drug users. The target of a federal undercover operation in Los Angeles in 1958, drug enforcement gambled that Hawes would inform on suppliers rather than risk a successful music career. Instead he refused to cooperate, and was sent down, handed a long stretch in Fort Worth Federal Medical Facility. After serving only part of his sentence, he was granted Executive Clemency by President Kennedy, who one must surmise was  fan, however the golden years of bop had passed, Hawes career lost its momentum and never really recovered.


US Contemporary S 7589 Black and Gold label. Coming immediately after DuNann’s own “Stereo Records” label but pre-dating that sea of custard yellow, aren’t they lovely? Made from “noise-free vinylite”,  according to the liner notes. Interesting as early as 1958, reference to purity of vinyl. The next fifty years added a few tics here and there. Very early stereo engineering, but sounds great as you expect from Roy DuNann and his magic  AKG C-12’s

Aficionados of typography, note artists names on the front cover are un-capitalised. So West Coast, LA,  just tear up the rules.



Collectors Corner



Source: Collection of the late Brian Clark

Replaces my earlier  Japanese King pressing of “For Real”, an early post here at LJC  in September 2011 – my how time flies. Always nice to hear how a recording was intended to sound.

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17 thoughts on “Hampton Hawes For Real! (1958) Contemporary US

  1. LJC, I just found this music on a Contemporary/Boplicity reissue. From your guide to record labels I learned to approach these with soms caution, but I have to say I simply LOVE to hear Scott LaFaro coming through with a tone and a presence that I find stunning. To me, grown up in the seventies with reissues, it’s as if I can only now understand the reports from contemporaries who were completely bowled over by this musician.
    It seems to me that one really has to go at this where-is-the-best-sound question one session at a time. It is a prospect that I find – after thirty years of listening – just fantastic.

    • Hi Frank
      Records are full of suprises. Boplicity was active reissuing 50’s/60’s jazz in mid-’80s, one of the labels of Ace Records. I have a sort of rule of thumb avoiding these reissue labels based on experience of ’80s vinyl, but it’s interesting to hear a positive review. The original Contemporary du Nann recordings are so strong, maybe Boplicity were able to get a good clean transfer from a early generation tape, and did a good job of the reissue. La Faro was such a loss.

  2. “America launches first monkey into space. Monkey likes it, waves hands in air on re-entry, and asks if it can stay on for another ride.”

    The monkey is still up in space, but this time he is running the Federal Reserve.

    • From what little I understand, the word “Reserve” is a false prospectus, Our respective goverments both spend more than they collect in taxes, and finance the difference by a combination of borrowing and printing money. Apparently this is considered “smart”. Personally, I think a monkey would do a better job, however you would be taking the risk that, at some point in future, you could find you get paid in bananas.

      • The Federal Reserve is a private bank with no reserves. All the money it lends to the Government (i.e. the people) is created out of thin air. Only the interest the Government pays back is real. Google the money masters. Its the biggest pyramid scheme in history.

      • My belief is that people who loan money to the world’s governments, do so under this unusual premise that one day they will be paid the principal plus interest (plus interest on interest, penalty points, etcetera) no matter what and irrespective of the world’s ability to produce (and consume) such exorbitant amount of wealth and that, if governments are unable to honor their financial obligations, they (the bankers) will collect their due in any form they please, be it goods, services, labor, cultural artifacts, natural, historic and artistic resources, gold, human mass or any combination thereof ; essentially, entire nations will be confiscated and foreclosed — which then leads us to this scary possibility: that one day the world will no longer belong to the humans, it will end up belonging to the money. We are looking at a very real, and very scary possibility that the populations of entire nations will be confiscated as collateral. This is already taking place in Greece and Cyprus (and to a lesser degree elsewhere) as we speak. But this is just a beginning. Greeks (who are not without a sin) are being used as guinea pigs to see how this process will unfold elsewhere.

        What then? Will I be forced to give up my John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon collection and turn my Blue Train to some Wall Street bigwig who, in all likelihood, will not have a slightest clue what it is he is looking at? Or will Big Brother declare that owning original Blue Notes is hereby outlawed?

        I fear that sooner rather than later we will all be remembering the days when we were paid in bananas as “good old days”. Paint me pessimistic.

        Thank God I still have my Coltranes and Gordons. They might have to use a sharp object of some sort to pry them from my cold hand.

  3. Dear LJC, are you sure your turntable is running at the correct speed? Time and again, I’ve noticed that your LP samples are about three point something per cent shorter (which means of course, higher in pitch) than CD tracks of the same song, and the same thing applies when compared to my own LP versions. Please check yourself. However, don’t use Side A of “Kind Of Blue”. These tracks were sold at the wrong pitch (about 2% sharp) for forty years until Columbia finally decided to fix them.

    • Hi thanks for the pointer Eduard – The turntable I have been using for rips over the last three months is a Numark portable “DJ”type deck which has variable pitch, something that I never touch and leave at the default facory setting of zero. What you are saying is that the factory setting is “wrong”. Its too fast. I’ll experiment with it to slow it down a tad. I don’t think I’ve ever made a 1:1 comparison with a CD as I tend not to own the CD, but If that’s the best way to benchmark it,I’ll find something not Kind of Blue. Thanks.

      • You’re welcome, LJC. “Wrap Your Troubles” is in Bb major key, and your LP rip is just halfway between Bb and B.
        Hamp’s piano seems to have been tuned very precisely to 880 Hz concert pitch. So if you just slow down the Numark (which I think is quite a useful turntable otherwise, wow&flutter-wise that is…) by three percent it should be just about right. It still surprises me to learn that yours should deviate that much, but there really isn’t any other explanation to it.
        Keep swingin’,

    • From the House of Lords blog
      Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as a person over 60, I am continually bombarded with spam emails? They are always the same and are usually about penile extensions, Viagra or inkjet cartridges. Do I look like a man who requires inkjet cartridges?

  4. I discovered two pianists at the same moment but I couldn’t prefer one or the other, some 40 years ago.
    then I researched on them both and I gave my first price: one was Hawes and the other (winner) was Phineas Newborn.
    simply my preference between them, Bud sits higher.

    • You raise an interesting question, Dottore, If the greatest alto say is Parker, do you listen only to Parker? Bud is unquestionably the best, but our musical diet, like our physical one, demands variety, even when it is ultimately of lesser quality.Only through the pursuit of variety do we make discovery. How else would we know that Bud is best?

      • Right: I meant that in a particular moment I met those two, for me unknown pianists, at the same time. I dig other musicians than my preferred one for each instrument, of course, and the more I know about one, the more I search for whom I do not know yet. true that after I have digested a musician, I seldom go back to him, preferring new researches. seldom, not never.

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