Hampton Hawes: Here and Now (1965) Contemporary (updated)

UPDATED September 3: Harry M has the photos, Hampton Hawes at Montreux, 1971

From the LJC backlog of draft reviews, an “inessential album” according to All-Music, nevertheless it has something to offer, and prompts a closer look at an original but somewhat neglected piano stylist, Hampton Hawes.

Hampton-Hawes-Here-and-Now-cover-1800-LJCSelection: Fly Me To The Moon (Bart Howard)

.  .  .

Artists

Hampton Hawes, piano; Chuck Israels, bass; Donald Bailey, drums; recorded by Roy DuNann, Contemporary Records, Los Angeles, CA, May 12, 1965

The Hampton Hawes Trio here is formed of Bill Evan’s bass replacement for Scott LaFaro, Chuck Israels, and long-time Jimmy Smith drummer Donald Bailey.

I usually skip over irrelevant biographical detail, “Hampton Hawes was born at an early age in  (YYYY) , blah bla” but the interesting start in life here was that Hampton’s  mother was a church pianist, and his introduction to the piano was as a toddler sitting on his mother’s lap while she practiced. Becoming a pianist seemed inevitable.

Hawes became one of the early bebop big hitters, appearing in the late 40’s and early ’50s West Coast/ Hollywood Jazz and Los Angeles scene in the company of  Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Howard McGhee, Art Pepper, Sonny Kriss and many other early  artists. He had a  head start; in music, timing is everything.

To quote myself:

“The young Hawes trained his right hand to reconstruct the horn lines of Charlie Parker. By the time he had finished absorbing the rhythmic influences of stride and swing piano, gospel and blues, combined with that virtuoso right hand, he arrived at an outstanding personal style, among the most accomplished in a crowded field of Fifties jazz piano”

(LJC (2013): Hampton Hawes Volume 2)

Hawes was a highly original stylist who articulated the vocabulary of Bud Powell through to Bill Evans. He was not as propulsively rhythmic as Wynton Kelly or Horace Silver, not as elegant as Tommy Flanagan, nor as percussive as Herbie Hancock, but nevertheless established his own voice, with a niche in melodic interpretation.

His earliest recordings appeared as 10″ titles for Savoy and Prestige.Then, like many others in the early ’50s, Hawes was drafted into two years in the military. Returning from posting in the Pacific, Hawes in trio and quartet became a mainstay of the Contemporary catalogue, recordings including the well regarded three album “All Night Sessions” with Jim Hall. I think I have all three.

Some of his best recordings however were in the later 50s, including the outstanding “For Real” (Contemporary, 1958) which featured an extraordinary quartet of Scott LaFaro, Howard Land, and Frank Butler, recorded by Contemporary master-engineer and Van Gelder rival, Roy DuNann. This record  is highly desirable as an original pressing, if you don’t have it, go for one. Now.

Then Hawes’ subsequent discography revealed another tell-tale absence. After being arrested in 1958 for heroin possession, sentenced to a disproportionate ten years, he spent five years in prison until granted executive clemency by President Kennedy. It is hard to envisage what public harm was prevented by jailing Hawes: reducing the number of great jazz recordings seems a poor outcome. The War On Drugs was reinvented as the War on Drug Addicts, especially against  easy-marks like musicians. Musicians were least likely to shoot back, Hawes being armed only with a piano.

After release from prison, Hawes resumed playing and recording, and began touring. During a world tour in the late ’60s “he was startled to discover that he had become a legend among jazz listeners overseas” (Wiki citation requested), playing sold out shows and concert halls in ten countries, appearing on European television and radio networks, and recording many albums.

Delving into Hawes discography I found a bewildering array of titles, without a coherent timeline, perhaps best dated by his progressively expanding hair and luxuriant sideboards. It is also confused by the number of earlier recordings of Hawes first released  by Contemporary many years later. He seemed to have carved out a niche in covering  popular film and musical compositions.  I am not sure what merit there is in his last decade of recordings: if you have any picks, please call them out.

In the 1970s, Hawes experimented with electronic keyboard,  though eventually returned to playing the acoustic piano. However he looked an increasingly lone and haunted figure, and in 1977, died unexpectedly of a stroke, age 48.

Music

Contemporary/ Lester Koenig’s eyes firmly on commercial potential, Here And Now consists mainly of popular tunes of the day associated with Hollywood big movies (1962-64). The piano art is how Hawes’s fluent improvisation handles the wordless but familiar tunes like”Fly Me To The Moon”. You can sing karaoke..”… Fly me to The Moon …umm.. among the stars…on Jupiter or Mars..dumdidum…la la.. in other words..umm..(I’m guessing) I Love You.”

Historical Note: in 1954, composer Bart Howard completed a song “In Other Words.” A publisher suggested he retitle the song “Take Me to the Moon,” but he finally settled on “Fly Me to the Moon“. In 1960, the song was made a huge hit by Peggy Lee, later recorded by Judy Garland, Doris Day, and Frank Sinatra. Its success made Howard so wealthy that he curtailed his songwriting efforts, probably the best outcome.

Hawes mastery of the keyboard enriches the melodies with sparkling improvisation, perfectly executed long rapid runs and bluesy-figures: he seems short on composition, but long on interpretation. Other tunes on Here And Now include “What Kind Of Fool Am I”? (Stop The World – I Want To Get Off, 1962);Chim-Chimeree-Chim-Chimeree” (Mary Poppins, 1964)…”Days Of Wine And Roses” (Days Of Wine And Roses, 1962) …”People” (Funny Girl, 1964)  plus “The Girl From Ipanema.” (la la la la lala la … 1962…ugh!)

Coltrane was fearless in taking on such iconic film tunes as a launchpad for stellar exploration. Note for another day, contrast the treatment of Julie Andrews/ Dick Van Dyke singing Mary Poppins’ Chim-Chimeree Chim Chimeree between Hawes and Coltrane. Different strokes for different folks, eh? Greensleeves is another killer, because the chord progression is so bountiful.

Vinyl: Contemporary S7616, my guess, an original 1965 issue.

Interestingly, Koenig’s Contemporary label continued to obfuscate the date of issue of its records by never declaring the date of manufacture, and using label design belonging to previous era issues, like this black label gold print design. The absence of deep groove is a telltale. The LKS stamper codes however provide some degree of authenticity compared to much later Monarch Contemporary reissues.

Hampton-Hawes-Here-and-Now-labelsr-1800-LJC

Hampton-Hawes-Here-and-Now-back-cover-1800-LJCCollector’s Corner

This is a short corner, as I have not bought (or played) a record in ages. Still, I have some earlier draft posts which I can upgrade to full posts, and a few more in still in draft to work with.

Any thoughts on Hampton Hawes? Apparently his autobiography Raise Up Off Me is well regarded.  Any picks from his works?

As an aside, I wonder how my favourite record stores in London have weathered the last six months, without my custom, and without the usual vinyl-hungry overseas visitors to London who would drop by in search of souvenir British vintage rock. These things are rarely commented on in the media. Perhaps the Discogs Marketplace is having its best year ever? Some readers have told me they are splashing out on more treats, definitely a good morale boost. How are things looking for record collectors where you are? Feel free to share any experiences.

UPDATE: Harry M exclusive – Hampton Hawes, Montreux 1971

Photo credits: Harry M, The Jazz Paparazzi

LJC

16 thoughts on “Hampton Hawes: Here and Now (1965) Contemporary (updated)

  1. All the “citations needed” on Wikipedia and elsewhere are answered by reading HH’s biography, “Raise up on me”, which is recommended – although totally absorbing, it will make you sad…

  2. Upon your recommendation I hunted down a copy of “for real “ – ended up getting it for £8 which I was pretty happy with , whatever the pressing .

    I was wondering if you could help
    me identify what I have . It looks very much like the 60s pressings you have highlighted above but does feel on the light side .

    LKS-199-D3 etched into the runout , along with CBS-SM

    Sounds great whatever !

    Many thanks

    John

      • Identifying provenance of Contemporary is a thankless task. Lester Koenig (and his son subsequently) masked all signs of date of manufacture. The absence of deep groove is the most useful delimiter of “modern” reissue from originals, along with address on the back cover, and run-out stamps distinguishing RCA Hollywod from Monarch. It is very messy as these recordings were reissued for several decades using earlier label designs. You would need to supply very detailed photos to get any closer.

  3. So sorry to hear about your hi fi issues, I have a similar problem myself in that my valve phono stage has lost a channel. I tried to follow the advice of some internet folks who thought they could talk me through fixing it and I made it go bang, when reassembled. I put together a cheaper system with an integrated amp and, first world problems admittedly, I just don’t like the step down to mid-fi. It has meant though that I am playing more of the collection of jazz gigs captures that have built up, and I am trying some of the high res or just best lossless files for albums not on vinyl. Hasn’t stopped me buying about 40 early UK pressings of vintage modern jazz recently. The UK Decca pressings of these Contemporary lps are gorgeous sounding, and I hoover up these older Hamps as quickly as I see them. The comments section has me intrigued to check out more of the later ones now as well. He is a far better pianist than Dave Brubeck, and equally as interesting for me as Les McCann, whose The Shout I want to recommend as being in a similar vein. Regarding the US undated Contemporary reissues, those without the deep groove are still sixties if they have the tipped on sleeve in my experience. Any more precision will involve decoding the run out grooves I presume.

  4. Great stuff, LJC!!!

    Some of the most dickhead things to write: “inessential album” or “non-essential”, “not groundbreaking”. Those guys write like assholes – they don’t even LIKE Jazz; know that – and ignore them directly.

    I really dig the energy of “Here and Now”. There are some signs of skittishness (and perhaps trauma from being incarcerated), but overall, I think they achieve an air of maturity. You can hear Hamp has checked out Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, and McCoy Tyner. I love how he incorporates that Gospel music influence on some of those form turnarounds and tags on “Fly Me To the Moon” and “People”. I dig musicians who add flavors that don’t fit into the general stew – even if it isn’t entirely by the rules, these ideas have their own intent and meaning from within that person.

    “He was not…as percussive as Herbie Hancock”
    You didn’t ask – but, here and now is where we disagree. (Perhaps we might be thinking of this word differently?) The piano is inherently percussive, so you’d have to be a pianist like Hank Jones, Bill Evans or Tommy Flanagan to lean on the more legato characteristics of the piano. The core of Hawes’ sound lies in that bouncy, pixie-ish quality in his rhythmic approach; herein lies the merit in the last decade of his recordings – far more rhythmic than in previous years.
    (Check out “Something Special”, 1976)

    Probably my favorite? “This Is Hampton Hawes: Vol. 2, The Trio”, Contemporary 3515.

    • You know your piano Eric, respect, I hear what you say about “percussive”, which I intended a comparative dimension rather than an absolute. Hancock’s most distinctive stylistic contribution for me is the discursive role in a quartet/ quintet, echoing, discussing, spinning off the other players. We need a better way of describing the piano-contribution, beyond comping. I think you are on the right track in describing Hawes, thank you.

  5. Big fan of Hampton Hawes here. I think he was a terrific player. I typically don’t buy piano trio records, but I’ve made exceptions for H Hawes (among some others, of course) and not regretted it. His album Four! is an absolute favorite and has been for many years. I bought a late 90s reissue of the album because I found the colorful William Claxton cover photo amusing. I find the music -every second of it- thoroughly satisfying. It’s light, it swings and I think every time I hear it what pros Hawes, Kessel, Red Mitchell and Shelly were. The playing is masterful and they make it sound easy. I have since picked up an original copy AND learned more about the great Roy DuNann courtesy of this wonderful blog.

  6. I’m a huge fan of Hampton Hawes, although I still have quite a few holes in his Contemporary catalog. “For Real!” is the real deal, for real, yo! It was my first of his classic albums and I play it a lot. There are some nuggets in his later catalog, I picked up a white label promo of his 1972 Prestige title “Universe” sometime last year and it blew my mind. Harold Land is a nice bonus, too!

    In regards to the pandemic, I think the UK has a much better handle on it than the Cheeto dusted genius at the helm here in the U.S., there’s no end in sight and it’s just miserable for so many people. I’m one of the few privileged ones who came out alright so far, my wife and I have been working from home since March, the kids are learning virtually, we’ve refinanced our home taking advantage of the low interest rates and I got to spend tons of time with my vinyl collection. Definitely dug in and prepared for the long.

  7. One of my favourite piano trio albums is Spanish Steps by Hampton Hawes on the Black Lion label. Recorded in 1968 with Jimmy Woode (bass) and the great Arhur Taylor on drums.

  8. online record sales seem to be getting a boost, an my own modest little operation certainly has. most of the shop owners I know have said they are beginning to do well again, and expect they will be fine. 🙂

  9. Of the later albums 2 or 3 stand out for me. The stellar Northern Windows is a desired David Axelrod production and features the excellent West Coast rhythm section of Spider Webb on drums and the great great Carol Kaye on Bass. Blues for Walls is quite groovy as well. And the very late 1978 As Long as there is Music co-led with Charlie Haden on Artist House Records is just Beautiful.

  10. Hi Andy! You saying “I have not bought (or played) a record in ages” has me concerned for your well-being. Are you safe and well? Or is it your turntable that’s feeling under the weather? Or perhaps you’re simply enjoying foreign sunny climes and hoping not to be quarantined on your return.

    • Personally I’m fine, Martin, no cause for concern thanks, but the whole pandemic containment strategy of UK is a nightmare. I said to my better half back in March, the cure will be worse than the disease. It definitely now is. Amidst all that I have had hi-fi equipment problems – not a good year. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, which right now looks not very soon.

      • Glad to hear you’re alright. Hifi can be fixed/replaced – not so much the human body. You’re right, we’ve been getting mixed messages from the government here in the UK throughout the whole crisis. I’ve been working from home full-time since March and watching the whole sad affair unfold around me. My wife’s a secondary school teacher and the kids start the new academic year today. Who knows how that will turn out?

        On the positive side, I’ve made some new contacts over the Summer that have enabled me to fill a few glaring gaps in my record collection. And, in an odd but strangely appropriate development redolent of the times, I’ve started to explore the music of Alice Coltrane (even though I’m no fan of the harp in jazz).

  11. Judging by my experience, Discogs and eBay are doing just fine, although I might be an outlier.

    Four months ago I did not own a single LP record, which was appropriate because I didn’t own a turntable either. I stupidly offloaded my small but decent collection of ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s rock albums at a moving sale in the late ’00s along with my faithful college-era JVC table.

    But sometime in late April or early May of this year, homebound by the pandemic, I began feeling nostalgic for my lost vinyl collection. On a whim, I bought a decent Audio-Technica table and a pair of powered desktop speakers on Amazon and set them up in my home office where, suddenly, I was spending a lot of my time. I started bidding for LPs on eBay, fantasizing about recreating my old collection from scratch, beginning with albums that for some reason I hadn’t subsequently repurchased as CDs. I had no idea what I was doing, bidding almost randomly, erring on the side of sealed brand-new copies on the misguided theory that newer must be better.

    I had become a casual jazz fan during the CD era, and so I started thinking that maybe owning vinyl editions of some of my favorite jazz CDs would be interesting, now that I had a turntable again. Still deluded by the “newer is better theory,” I sank $25 into what I now know to be a Scorpio ripoff of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” Somehow that experience failed to deter me, and I began lurking on eBay auctions for other jazz records I knew — Brubeck, Coletrane, Miles, pretty mainstream stuff. Certain terms in the item descriptions baffled me: “deep groove,” “ear.” Googling one or other of those terms led me to the LJC blog …

    … and the rest, as they say, is history. Armed with a little knowledge (increasing by the day) and a little spending cash, and newly bitten by the collector’s bug, I began buying jazz records, mostly through eBay, sometimes via Discogs. I have an Excel spreadsheet cataloguing all my vinyl purchases (following LJC’s advice), and the catalog now shows 139 jazz albums, totaling more than $2,500, averaging about $18.55 per record (not counting shipping or tax).

    Since June.

    (And this doesn’t include about a dozen records currently either in transit or arrived by not yet catalogued; nor the several dozen rock records I’ve also purchased, mostly in April and May before the jazz fever took hold.)

    I’m sure my experience is not typical. But I suspect it’s not wholly unique. My guess is that along with patio vegetable gardens, home improvements, and baking bread, purchasing records over the internet is one of those pandemic hobbies that’s fueled a cottage industry.

    Thanks for the inspiration and the guidance.

    CJP

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