After witnessing the imaginative and energetic ‘Musician of the Year’ (All About Jazz NY, 2010) playing with Nick Malcolm Quartet earlier this month in The Vortex, I knew there were some further discoveries waiting for me in his Mopomoso evening solo performance. And so there he was, diving into his solo arrangement of parallel free-style stories, evolving them in a cinematic sequences and demonstrating almost acrobatical technical density. At some points Hawkins’s playing invoked some ghostly reminiscences of the orchestral jazz: Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington—one could tell that he enjoys the formative jazz heritage and is keen on using these speciffic voicings and phrasing in his deconstructive solo journeys. By constantly attacking the keyboard with his fast-paced, energetic (and sometimes even nervous, furious) sweeping arpeggios, Hawkins was filling the air with atonal density of Cecil Taylor. He was remarkably inventive creating contrasting patterns, dynamically ranging from a slight touch to an orchestral forte—and all that happening in a challenging tempo.
The structural logic of Hawkins’s compositions (or premeditated improvisations) involved gradually dissolving the sound with intervals of silence and returning with short, dynamic outbursts; diving into deconstructed, polyrhythmic bebop episodes; utilizing the spectrum of timbral characteristics of the keyboard by alternating phrases played in different registers; using symmetry (e.g., ending the composition with a reprise-like structures); the use of interchanging melodic lines.
The last piece—impressionistic, calm, and covered with broad chords—finalized Hawkins’s improvisational journey and left me very intrigued, eager to hear him in other contexts and setups.
More about Alexander Hawkins: www.alexanderhawkins.com
Photo: Geiste Kincinaityte
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