Start Your Week With Hampton Hawes

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.

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  1. Jon Foley says

    Doug: My copy of the album cover book, “California Cool,” lists the cover design as by “Guidi/Tri-Arts,” with no separate credit for the artist. But a little internet research informed me the cover was credited as, “Design and illustration: Robert Guidi.”

  2. Peter Levin says

    Robert Guidi designed and illustrated that cover and a number of others for Contemporary. The most similar in style is Shelly Manne’s More Swinging Sounds (cat instead of alligator); Shelly Manne & His Friends may be the most elegant (birds); and for a very different design concept, there’s Lighthouse at Laguna.

  3. Charley Gerard says

    The cover drawing and design is by Robert Guidi/Tri-Arts. This information is from a wonderful Japanese publication, Jazzical Moods: Artwork of Excellent Jazz Labels by Naoki Mukoda (Tokyo: Bijutso Shuppan-Sha, 1993).

  4. Dr. Mike Baughan says

    Didn’t our Gator friend do some European tenure in France with Izod & later retire to Florida (University)?

  5. roger hunter says

    It’s very good news that Concord Music are keeping Hampton Hawes recordings in circulation. But I do think that they have missed an opportunity to re-issue the three volumes in the order in which they were recorded. Vol.1 The Trio (L.A. June 28, 1955): 16 titles were recorded that night, one of which, “Just Squeeze Me,” appeared on Vol.2. Five were unissued. Vol.2 (December 3, 1955): eight titles were recorded at this session, three unissued. So Vol 2, has one title from the first session plus three from the following session (January 25, 1956), “You and the Night and the Music,” “Blues For Jacque” and “‘Round midnight.”

    The eight unissed titles noted above have appeared on an issue titled Bird Song by Hampton Hawes in which the bass playing is credited to Paul Chambers not Red Mitchell, the title song is credited to Thad Jones, which is incorrect as Mr.Jones song is in standard form whereas Hampton Hawes wrote a blues, “Bird’s Song,” and recorded it at the December 3, 1955 session.

    Also for Concord Music: Ed Michel a producer for Contemporary Records when they were owned by Fantasy, told me in a letter that there were at least 20 more unissued titles in the can from the Mitchells Studio Club recordings that produced “The Seance” and “I’m All Smiles.” Now, what a nice box set that would make (dream on). The information regarding Vols 1, 2 and 3 is from my discography published in 1986.

  6. Terence Smith says

    Hampton Hawes burns with an intensity that will sear into any listener.

    I thought the burning version of “All the Things You Are” on the Trio, VOL 2 could not be equalled, until I got a two-CD set of The Complete Trio sessions recorded in LA with Red Mitchell and maybe Mel Lewis, maybe Chuck Thompson. Wow.

    Hawes was always “LIve”. I remember the Contemporary LP album notes of The Trio, VOL. 2 said that they recorded in a Los Angeles police gymnsium and set up a little table so the players’ wives could drink nearby, then turned down the lights!

    The results seemed to have gospel, blues, Powellist feeling, and an attack that’s only Hawes.

  7. says

    One of the very best from 1955-58. Hamp & Horace Silver seem to come to the same conclusions. His earlier stuff lacks a specific direction while his post-prison stuff seems to move in a Bill Evans direction. His batting average 1955-58 is 100%; post-64 about 40%.

  8. Deborah Hendrick says

    Oh I like the gator, too. Do you suppose he was drinking Swamp Waters?
    I’ve added Hampton Hawes to my wish list—thank you, Doug.

  9. says

    My new year, the 50th by the way, will surely start with Hampton Hawes: A never ending flow of boppin’ ideas, deeply inspired by Bird.

    Hamp, who influenced so many pianists, and also horn players like yours truly. — A true master, one of your original national jazz treasures. There’s no way for any young jazz pianist to get around him.

    My favorite album?

    The Green Leaves Of Summer

    Find a review on this stellar album HERE.

    • says

      Yeah, Red, that sounds promising, although I was never a fan of more than one piano in a jazz group.

      Too many keys 😉

      Odd observation: Many editors seem to have a problem with the correct spelling of “Bags’ Groove” since “Bags” was Milt Jackson’s nickname, or am I completely wrong, and it’s “Bags Groove” like on the famous album cover?