Alexander Hawkins Trio ‘Alexander Hawkins Trio’ (Alexander Hawkins Music) 4/5

alexander-hawkins-trioNow in his mid-thirties, pianist Alexander Hawkins has arrived somewhat tardily to the piano jazz trio format, but is extremely well schooled in its history and his musical influences encompass the more avant-garde leanings of Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor as well as the more mainstream, if no less equally thrilling, tones of Elmo Hope and that genius of the ivories, Art Tatum. This new offering, his first trio album (fifth album if you include Ensemble, Trio and solo), focuses on a different side to the piano trio from that of Bill Evans, and adopts an extremely progressive approach which overall works extremely well. On the strongest pieces such as ‘One Tree Found’, there is no little inventiveness and the fine percussive work of Tom Skinner is particularly strong here with the complex terrain of Andrew Hill conjured up. A solo intro in the tribute to Louis Mohlolo on ‘Blue Notes for Blue Note’ morphs into a slow-paced trio number that then rapidly grows into an increasingly intense and uptempo piece. For melodicism, ’40 HB’ hits the spot, and once again the work of bassist Neil Charles stands out. Literary references come in the form of ‘Baobabs’, the exotic trees that one sometimes finds in West Africa and that forms part of an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry work. This writer especially liked the use of walking bass line and minimalist piano that to these ears hinted at Monk tinkering at the piano early morning. It has to be said that in places the music can come across as too scholarly and this could potentially be an impediment to the overall musicality. Certainly, Hawkins needs to be careful that it is his own voice that comes across from the myriad influences picked up thus far. However, the progress of the trio is impressive and bodes well for the future and the empathy and interplay already of a consistently high standard. Minimalist packaging more akin to a Rough Trade indie rock release adds to the general fascination and inner sleeve notes by no less than musical writer Richard Williams, are a testament to the reverence with which the London music press currently hold the pianist.

Tim Stenhouse