By the time Hampton Hawes’ third trio album appeared, his piano playing had me in thrall. I was so taken with the LP’s cover that I traced its portrait of an alligator transported by music, inked in the outline, colored the gator with an Asparagus green Crayola and framed the copy. I have been carting it around from place to place ever since.
My copy of the LP wore out long ago, but Concord Music, the inheritor of Contemporary Records, is keeping Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes in digital circulation. That’s a good idea because Hawes (1928-1977) combined something of Bud Powell’s intensity with a natural blues sensibility and an individual way of phrasing that could make a standard song sound as if he’d thought of it first. In addition, engineer Roy DuNann managed to sculpt sound to achieve the feeling of a performance in the intimacy of the listener’s living room. DuNann did his magic in Contemporary’s studio, which was the company’s shipping room. Here’s Hawes in a track from that lovely album, with Red Mitchell on bass and Chuck Thompson playing drums, January 25, 1956.
In his autobiography, Raise Up Off Me, Hawes wrote with passion and humor about the wonder of making music and about the torture he inflicted on himself. It is an important book about the jazz life.
I have never known who the alligator artist was. If you know, please send a comment.