Tom Hewson ‘Essence’ (Cam Jazz) 4/5

A new name and a promising future ahead if this solo outing recorded in Vienna is anything to go by. Already the recipient of the 2014 Nottingham Jazz Piano competition award, Hewson has been signed to piano and otherwise esoteric Italian jazz label Cam Jazz on which the likes of Enrico Pieranunzi. Kenny Wheeler and the sadly departed John Taylor have frequently recorded and that is a non-négligeable feat in itself.

In fact, Tom Hewson and his regular band were scheduled to perform a concert with the Mancunian pianist, but his passing deprived them of that opportunity. As a homage, Hewson interprets, ‘Summer phases’, and it is the flowing romanticism of this reading that is so effectively conveyed. All but three pieces are originals and of these, the lovely riff that he creates with himself on ‘Major Malfunction’ hints at Bill Evans among his coterie of preferred pianists. At times the approach is distinctly bleak as on ‘Koyasan’, and the avant-garde is touched upon, albeit within structured limits, on ‘Constellations’. Of the other two standards on offer, it is the stripped down version of Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ that really comes to life and the pure essence of the composition is retained.

This writer would like to hear Tom Hewson in his more natural setting of a trio, but even there nothing is quite conventional, with a drummer less trio comprising bass and vibraphone. Sleeve notes in English and Italian are by BBC radio 3 reviewer and jazz journalist Brian Morton.

Tim Stenhouse