Friday, April 06, 2012

All There Ever Out - Guardian review

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble – review

All There, Ever Out
4 out of 5
Alexander Hawkins' name was all over the newcomers-to-watch lists last year – unexpectedly, considering how unflinchingly experimental the 30-year-old Oxford pianist and composer is. Hawkins clearly understands classical music and free-improv equally well, but also enjoys South African township jazz and even the sound of the Hammond organ. Jazz history is always an undercurrent to this remarkable session: Thelonious Monk's knotty thematic style plays a major role, and there are connections to early piano genius Art Tatum, to bebop and the 1960s new wave. But the references have been absorbed so deeply that they never sound like quotations. Hawkins' piano and Hammond organ are joined by bass and cello, electric guitar and marimba, and a Hammond-playing Kit Downes on one track. The Monkish opener lurches out of squealy bowed-strings improv into an ambiguous pulse in which the bass walks fast and the cello slow. Tatum Totem is a mix of guitar-noise textures and snatches of pre-bop swing. There are also passages of Hawkins' bleepy-electronica Hammond sound, long classical cello swoops and a beautiful solo piano meditation (Elmoic) that shifts to another Monklike strut. The album is full of surprises, it rebalances premeditation and spontaneity, and Hawkins' themes are genuinely memorable.

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