Alexander Hawkins

Iron into Wings
Intakt CD 330

More instances of British pianist Alexander Hawkins burgeoning talent, the compositions presented in a solo setting here mark his maturity as a player and writer. Less sparse and more affable than you would expect from a keyboardist known for his work with Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker, his improvising here expands to new parameters. At the same time some of these dozen tunes reveal an affinity to the busy efforts and orchestral dynamics of pre-modern stylists like Art Tatum and Earl Hines.

Tracks like “Congregational” “Wander/Wonder” and the give-away titled final “Etude” emphasis this, such as his work on the second whose flowery glissandi and pattern extensions, sweeping arpeggios and speedy turnarounds balance the emphasized and conventional motifs. Darker, pedal-emphasized repetition which reflects back onto itself is a feature of “Congregational”, whose pitch spanning cadenzas suggest Tatum-like virtuosity. While the super dynamic chording which ends the disc is propelled with keys vibrated to such an extent that they seem bendable, cross pulsed kinetics also enliven the narrative.

At the same time “Pleasant Constellation”, that reflects its title, and “We All Bleed”, which definitely doesn’t, demonstrates softer, more pleasant concepts from Hawkins, with the later attaining a romantic patina and the former’s broad key strokes reflecting the traditional song form even as further plinks and thumps confirm its 21st Century origins. Don’t assume that Hawkins has mellowed into vapid flatness however. A driving note pile up propels “It Should Be a Song” with key tingles and pings concluding the track in the piano’s highest register after tone clusters and challenging asides have contrapuntally overlapped during the initial chromatic run though. As for a piece like “Strange Courage”, palimpsest-like key strategies not only color every tone, but also suggest each one’s note and chord extensions.

Subtle without sterility, dissonant without disruption and spectacular without swagger, Iron into Wings plots Hawkins’ original path at this stage of his career.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Song All the Way 2. Congregational 3. Tough like Imagination 4. Pleasant Constellation 5, Gossamer like a Ghost Tree 6. Strange Courage 7. It Should Be a Song 8. Hard as Threads 9. Tumble Mono 10. Wander/Wonder 11. We All Bleed 12. Etude

Personnel: Alexander Hawkins (piano)