Four! – Hampton Hawes With Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell – Contemporary Records (1958)/Craft Recordings

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

This is an outstanding re-mastered vinyl of an under appreciated jazz pianist.

Four! – Hampton Hawes With Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell – Stereo Records/Contemporary Records (1958)/Craft Recordings (2022) 180-gram stereo vinyl 39:44 ****1/2:

(Hampton Hawes – piano; Barney Kessel – guitar; Red Mitchell – double bass; Shelly Manne – drums)

Considering the significant number of iconic jazz pianists, it is possible to overlook a talent like Hampton Hawes. A self-taught musician, the Los Angeles native first appeared with artists like Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon and Shorty Rogers. He was a pioneer in the West Coast scene recording trio albums for Contemporary Records in the mid 1950’s. He appeared on Mingus Three, further enhancing his credentials. Despite a serious addiction, Hawes recorded for 20 years in various formats including trios, quartets, septets and solo. Perhaps one of his most significant accomplishments is his award-winning autobiography, Raise Up Off Me which chronicled his life in jazz and the strain of heroin addiction. Hawes’ piano style was unique incorporating both locked-hand and double-note blues into his playing. 

Craft Recordings has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of the 1958 album, Hampton Hawes: Four! He is joined by a stellar quartet that includes Barney Kessel (guitar), Shelly Manne (drums) and Red Mitchell (double bass). Hawes displays his skilled interpretation of jazz with roots in gospel and blues. Side 1 opens with a swinging cover of Charlie Parker’s bebop masterpiece, “Yardbird Suite”. With Manne and Mitchell establishing a lockdown tempo, Hawes glides through his solo with rapid flourishes and graceful elegance. Kessel is equally dynamic matching the bluesy feel and crisp notation. Mitchell also contributes a rhythmic solo and when the group reunites, the chemistry is palpable. The lively tempo carries over to “There Will Never Be Another You”. This is another pop standard that has become a staple of jazz with versions by Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Lester Young and Oscar Peterson. Hawes  soars on piano before turning it over to Kessel and then Mitchell. Manne’s deft timekeeping keeps the quartet grounded. A spirited exchange between piano and guitar steals the show. In a change of pace, double bassist Mitchell takes the initial lead on “Bow Jest”. Hawes with great phrasing follows this and the medium-swing arrangement resonates with elasticity and style. Kessel is especially soulful with emotive articulation.

Album Cover for Hampton Hawes Four VinylSide 2 is also buoyant with syncopated tempo shifts on “Sweet Sue”. Hawes’ first solo is hard-driving and Manne’s cymbal work is revelatory. This is unbridled jazzy swing and Kessel is scintillating, as he and Hawes trade licks with finesse. Hawes’ playing is deeply rooted in blues. This predilection is on full display on “Up Blues”. Within this idiomatic structure, there is a definitive translation of this hybrid genre, but with improvisational gravitas. Simply put, the quartet comes alive on this Hawes original. There is a great double lead on piano and guitar. Hawes articulates his ability to distill melodic essence on the whimsical “Like Someone In Love”. It has a late-night solitude and the slowed-down performance is appealing. The finale is a finger-snapping cool jazz cover of “Love Is Around The Corner”. It contains some of Hawes’ most adroit soloing and Kessel’s sinewy run is perceptive and moving.

This QRP re-mastered vinyl is pristine with limited surface noise and virtually no hisses or pops.  Kudos to Craft Recordings for re-introducing a brilliant pianist.  Four! Hampton Hawes!!! should be a part of any jazz vinyl library.


Side 1: Yardbird Suite; There Will Never Be Another You; Bow Jest

Side 2: Sweet Sue; Up Blues; Like Someone In Love; Love Is Just Around The Corner 

—Robbie Gerson

Logo Acoustic Sounds

Album Cover for Four - Hampton Hawes


Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01