Tag Archives: Alexander Hawkins

Quinta Interior review by Jorge Rubio

The Convergence Quartet – Song / Dance (CF 187)
Este cuarteto, en 10 noches, grabó el disco que tenemos frente a nosotros. En su segunda placa, siguiendo los parámetros de la grabación directa en el estudio, nos demuestran que el free jazz no necesariamente tiene que ser un ruido insoportable para la mente de los infelices mortales que no pueden soportar un acorde disonante en sus oídos. 

“Song/Dance” es un paseo por diferentes espacios que nos llevan de sonidos infantiles a caminos fríos y rutinarios de nuestro diario vivir. Con Alexander Hawkins al piano, The Convergence Quartet, se presenta como una de las promesas del nuevo jazz que invade la discografía de los amantes de este clásico estilo musical.

Sin embargo, este album traspasa esa barrera, pues se trata de una obra abierta con influencias claras en un pop melódico de sonidos delicados que se transan en una constante lucha con el ruido sin base de un alocado jazz bizarro.
http://www.quintainterior.cl/joomla/entretencion/musica-y-libros/2717-the-convergence-quartet-song-dance-clean-feed

All About Jazz review by John Sharpe

The Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)
It must have seemed like a long shot when the young British pair of pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash invited two illustrious north Americans, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer Harris Eisenstadt, to join them for a series of dates back in the fall of 2006. But now after two subsequent tours under the banner of the Convergence Quartet, the foursome is forging its own distinct identity. Its second disc continues the format found on Live In Oxford (FMR, 2007). Each member brings charts to the party which ensures a variety of styles, but common ground comes from a left field take on the interstices between composition and improvisation.
Not only are all four musicians accomplished writers, they are also fearsome improvisors, and the blend makes for a heady brew. Hawkins is carving a name for himself through his own Ensemble and as part of the collective Decoy, whose collaboration with reed player Joe McPhee, Oto (Bo Weavil, 2010), garners critical plaudits. Frequent associate Lash has also lent his far-reaching bass to collectives with saxophonists John Butcher and Tony Bevan and drummer Chris Corsano. Bynum, though strongly associated with reed player Anthony Braxton and the late trumpeter Bill Dixon, has developed an increasingly influential body of work, while Eisenstadt’s leadership vehicles stretch from small group intricacy, via explorations of West African rhythms, to soaring orchestral vision.
This repertoire passed muster on tour before being distilled to the essence for the recording. That accounts for the tightness of the tricky charts, but also for the relaxed way in which the band inhabits them with strong solos and well developed arrangements, featuring some haunting melodies alongside the instrumental prowess. There is a lot happening on each cut such that it seems that someone is always improvising, no matter what else is going on.
Eisenstadt doesn’t have a conventional feature, but he stretches over the bass riff and understated cornet/piano concord at the conclusion of his own “Next Convergence.” Hawkins excels on the same track, spraying notes with his right hand as his left marches up the keyboard before both meet in crashing unison. He shines also on Bynum’s “Iris,” where his driving rhythmic display appears to have strolled in from a different number entirely, encompassing Thelonious Monk-ish dissonance, stride and two handed counterpoint, bringing proceedings to an unexpected ending. That piece opens with the composer parading the tricks of his trade with slobbering growls, emphatic farts and querulous squeals all fashioned into a marvellously musical introduction. Hawkins’ title track showcases duets, with brash cornet partnering an abstract tattoo initially, then notably later where piano and drums provide an insistent backdrop for a chorus of wide ranging arco creaks by Lash and Bynum’s whistles and slurs.
There is a staggering range of approaches explored. At one extreme is Lash’s austere “Representations 17,” which in concert relies on a laptop for some combination of cues, score or instruction, but here manifests as a sequence of disjointed overlapping sounds which come in bursts of activity, and the occasional melodic fragment which isn’t sustained, becoming more pronounced in a final off kilter coming together. While at the other is the joyful upbeat South African jazz of “Kudala (Long Ago)” complete with Bynum’s playful cornet parachuting in for a goodtime romp. Lash’s “Second” makes for a bright opener, with piano and cornet spots gradually stretching the buoyant framework of interweaving lines. Elsewhere “Albert Ayler (his life was too short)” is a gentle processional rendition of the late Leroy Jenkins tune with cornet taking the composer’s violin part, while “The Pitts” is a lyrical world weary theme by the drummer with a lilting piano solo. Although the broad sweep might disorientate some listeners, nothing smacks of pastiche, and the varied program coheres around the conviction and skill of the participants. So prolific is the Clean Feed label that some releases are easily overlooked. This shouldn’t be one of them.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=38166

Impropozycja review by Marcin Kiciński

Convergence Quartet – Song / Dance (CF 187)
Od kiedy prowadzę tego bloga, przyjąłem założenie, że skoncentruję się na płytach z bieżącego roku. Co się z tym wiąże, w trakcie ostatnich trzech miesięcy przesłuchałem (oczywiście część bardzo pobieżnie) kilkadziesiąt płyt z 2010 roku i w pewnym sensie ogarnęła mnie rozpacz. Znaczna ich część w ogóle nie nadaje się do rekomendacji, a próba napisania o nich czegokolwiek byłaby nie lada wyzwaniem. Bierze się to przede wszystkim z niejasnego dla mnie, dość niechlujnego podejścia do kwestii tematu muzycznego, który jest osią improwizowanego utworu. Gros tematów to proste zapętlone w nieskończoność frazy basu, których laik – taki jak ja – wymyśliłby na poczekaniu kilkanaście i które będąc repetytywnym tłem, w pewnym momencie stają się nieznośne. Instrumentalistom często się wydaje, że wystarczy nałożyć na to tło gęste solówki i będzie z tego jazzowy hit. Zamiast tego mamy najczęściej jazzowy knot. Naturalnie na przestrzeni lat wydano wiele płyt i zabłysnęło wielu muzyków, którym się udało. Jest Fred Anderson, który potrafił niczym szaman wprowadzać w trans snuciem swoich bluesowych opowieści; jest John Zorn, który na bazie tematów wygrywanych przez Cohena tak szalał we wspaniałych dialogach z Douglasem, że miało się wrażenie, że bez statycznej linii basu całość by się rozleciała podczas kolejnej zespołowej eksplozji. Jest AALY Trio, gdzie tematy również stanowią podstawę, tyle że niech ktoś wskaże mi więcej płyt, gdzie każdy dźwięk ma swój przydźwięk, gdzie każde dmuchnięcie, każde szarpnięcie struny i każde uderzenie w bębny jest tak rozkołysane wokół tematu i tak paradoksalnie wolne od tematu. Wymieniać można by długo, jazz na temacie stoi, próbka w postaci 2010 roku pokazuje jednak, jak tylko nielicznym udaje się znaleźć na niego sposób.
Convergence Quartet jest jednym z tych wyjątków. Na “Song / Dance” jest dużo złożonych kompozycji, w ramach których zespół stawia na temat, dba o niego i przede wszystkim o mnie jako słuchacza, bym w ich ramach czerpał radość.
Już pierwszy utwór wzbudził mój spory aplauz. Prosta, dziecinna melodyjka z pięknym zawieszeniem. Jak cudownym narzędziem jest ta mała pauza, jak wiele możliwości daje w trakcie późniejszych improwizacji, jak miłym elementem jest powrót do niej po chwilowej wariacji…
Idźmy jednak dalej. “Baobabs” i “Albert Ayler (His Life Was Too Short)” to senne ballady, w pewien sposób przypominające płytę Wadady Leo Smitha “Procession of the Great Ancestry”. “Representations 17” nawiązuje duchem do współczesnej kameralistyki. “The Pitts” to cudowny blues, a kończąca płytę “Kudala” to zabawne westernowe wariacje.
Convergence Quartet to zespół, który – jako jeden z nielicznych – w swoich założeniach ma nie tyle solowe popisy (choć takowe oczywiście mają miejsce), co grupowe zmaganie się z kompozycją. Nawet gdy wszyscy szaleją, czuć, że cały czas trzymają się określonej frazy i pamiętają o wspólnym celu. Wychodzą z tego bardzo nietuzinkowe utwory i to w dużej mierze dlatego, że już na etapie zadawania sobie tematu nie brak animuszu do udziwnienia, unikania wtórności.
Nie sposób nie dodać, że na poziomie instrumentalnym także mamy tu do czynienia z nie lada gratką, pytanie tylko, czy jest sens wymieniać walory każdego muzyka z osobna (bo niewątpliwie wszyscy zasługują tu na uznanie), skoro przede wszystkim naprawdę, jak rzadko kiedy, na tej płycie liczy się kolektyw, organizacja i w pewnym sensie dyscyplina.
Na pewno sięgnę po kolejne płyty każdego z nich. Myślę, że się nie rozczaruję.
http://impropozycja.blogspot.com/2010/11/convergence-quartet-song-dance-clean.html

(Rough translation, courtesy of Google…)
Since I run this blog, I accepted the premise that I will focus on records of the year. What is it, during the last three months, listened to (of course, some very briefly) a few dozen CDs of 2010, and in a sense, I was filled with despair. A large part of them not at all suitable for a recommendation, and attempt to write anything about them would be a challenge. This stems primarily from the obscure to me, a rather sloppy approach to the theme song, which is the axis of an improvised song. Gros topics are simple phrase endlessly looped bass, the layman – like me – have invented on the spur of a dozen, and that being a repetitive background, at some point they become unbearable. Instrumentalists often seem that it is enough to impose on a background of dense guitar solos, and will instead be a jazz hit. Instead, we mostly jazz knot. Naturally, over the years spent a lot of boards and shined a lot of musicians who have succeeded.Fred Anderson, who was able to make like a shaman in a trance blues telling their stories, is John Zorn, which is based on themes by Cohen wygrywanych so raged the great dialogues with Douglas, that was the impression that without all the static bass line to disintegrate during the another team of the explosion. It AALY Trio, which also form the basis of themes, so that let someone will show me the records, where each sound has a hum, where every blow, every tug of the string and every beat of the drums are so swayed by the theme, and so, paradoxically, free from the subject. Exchange could be a long time, the topic is jazz, the sample in the form of 2,010 years, however, shows just how few manage to find his way.
Convergence Quartet is one of those exceptions. On “Song / Dance” is a lot of complex composition in which the band puts on, takes care of him and especially for me as a listener, I drew within them joy.
Already the first track disputes raised my applause. Simple, childish melody of a beautiful suspension. How wonderful this little tool is a pause, as many opportunities to give in later improvisation, like a nice element is the return to it after a slight variation …
But let us continue. “Baobabs” and “Albert Ayler (His Life Was Too Short)” is a dreamy ballad, in some ways reminiscent of the disc Wadady Leo Smith’s “Procession of the Great Ancestry.” “Representations 17” refers to the spirit of contemporary chamber music. “The Pitts” is a wonderful blues, and ending with the album “Kudala” is a funny western variations.
Convergence Quartet is a band that – as one of the few – in their assumptions is not so much solo performances (though of course any, take place), which groups struggle with the composition. Even when all the rage, feel that at all times adhere to certain phrases and remember with a common purpose.Emerge from this very extraordinary songs and this is largely because the stage of asking the subject does not lack for spirited udziwnienia, avoiding secondariness.
It is impossible not to add that at the level of instrumental and we are dealing with a real treat, the only question is whether it makes sense to exchange values of each medicine separately (because certainly all deserve recognition here), especially when really, how is rarely, on this CD has a collective, organization, and a sense discipline.
Are you sure you reach for the next album of each of them. I think that will not disappoint….

Ni Kantu review by Clifford Allen

Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)
Decoy – Vol. 1: Spirit (Bo’Weavil)
English pianist/organist and improvising composer Alexander Hawkins isn’t quite as well-known on these shores as he could be. His work tends to fall quite far from the European free improvisation mainstream, embracing bubbly lyricism, spiritual heft, and dedication to a diverse series of modern jazz threads (embracing Sun Ra, South Africa, and Charles Mingus equally). Though his discography is somewhat slim and includes only one official date as a leader, his youthful enthusiasm doesn’t get in the way of making work that is honest and mature.
One of his longstanding groups is the Convergence Quartet, which joins Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash with American improvisers Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and flugelhorn) and Harris Eisenstadt (percussion). Song/Dance is their second disc and first for the Portuguese Clean Feed label. Lash’s “Second” begins the disc, Hawkins in additive hunt and peck atop plastic rimshots and meaty pizzicato, anthemic and snaking as right hand repetition grabs hold of Bynum’s laconic, cottony pierce. Ultimately, it’s a funky and celebratory beginning, inverted backbeats shoving continual piano and brass reconstitution. Bynum’s phrases are lacy, short progressions that pay respect to Bill Dixon on “Baobabs,” set to an elegiac pace of drifting toms and Aeolian harp rustle. “Iris” starts life as a cornet cadenza, gulps and whines that become measured, Hawkins subsequently providing light deliberateness as Lash and Eisenstadt swirl and grab, the pianist closing with his own unaccompanied section along a Jaki Byard-Herman Blount axis.
Leroy Jenkins’ “Albert Ayler: His Life was Too Short” is highly reminiscent of “There is a Balm in Gilead,” airy refraction mixed with a hushed, lilting theme. The title composition works through multiple parts: a punchy drum-and-bugle corps, piercing metal and arco lines against a duskily creeping piano-drum base that soon becomes fractured accents. A Kenny Drew-inspired blues walk is the apex of Hawkins’ solo on the lush Eisenstadt-penned “The Pitts,” pinched brass waver stitching across the trio’s wooly canvas. Bynum skitters across the kwela theme of “Kudala,” sputtering call and flinty rises buoyed by bright, earthy township rhythms and Brotherhood-like melody.
Decoy is Hawkins’ organ-trio, although it’s a far cry from anything Freddie Roach or John Patton might have conjured even at their most exploratory. Spirit is the first part of a two-volume set, with follow-up The Deep released only on vinyl. Decoy is not a saxophone or guitar-driven group either, instead relying on John Edwards’ contrabass and Steve Noble’s percussion as throaty, glinting foils to Hawkins’ Hammond C3. The closest analog (and there are few) in organ jazz might be the 70s work of Larry Young, dense superimposition inspired by John Coltrane and with an obscure remainder of the groove buried in electric pulse. That is, at least, how Hawkins interprets it on the opening group improvisation, “Outside In,” rumbling keyboard mass occasionally popping out funky fragments, which are gradually subsumed in an all-stops-pulled murk, cymbal wash and throaty arco contributing to a pockmarked tone field. “Who’s Who” moves at a broken clip, elements of Ra and Jimmy Smith peppering a rollicking solo as Noble and Edwards count out a mighty, monolithic beat.
“Episode No. 69” ferrets out particulate rattle, upper-register key jabs in orbit with string harmonics and Noble’s heady rustle. Hawkins’ history with the church organ becomes clear in Gerhard Zacher-like long tones and tart plugged-in dissonance, falling away into hushed patter, cymbal floes and coiled strum before reemerging in density that falls just shy of power-play. The lengthy “Native Origins” deals with volumes in a tidal ebb and flow, heady masses that suddenly become a whisper, then returning in cubic plats and garish, upturned gesture almost entirely hinged upon Hawkins’ C3. Edwards and Noble trade support, fierce arco and Elvin-like triplet bash plugging at Hawkins’ greasy-wet shove and maddening, interwoven shouts. There isn’t any subtlety to the music on Spirit, tinny accents and gut projection on an equal footing with burbling, glitchy arpeggios and colorful swirls in a heaving but distinct coagulation. If you didn’t know music like this was possible from an organ-trio, Decoy will probably turn you on your ear.
http://cliffordallen.blogspot.com/

Paris Transatlantic review by Michael Rosenstein

The Convergence Quartet – SONG/DANCE (CF 187)
Perhaps the band-name refers to the convergence of two North American improvisers – cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer Harris Eisenstadt – and two from the UK: pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash. Or perhaps it refers to their distinctive synthesis between composition and improvisation, arrangement and spontaneity. In any case, this fine CD is their second release, recorded in the studio during the course of a short UK tour in spring 2009. The nine tunes include originals by each member along with Leroy Jenkins’ “Albert Ayler (His Life Was Too Short)” and “Kudala,” a traditional South African song. Here’s a band that truly understands how to ride the edge of inside/outside, at times dulcetly melodic, at other times quite prickly; they’re always doing something unexpected, weaving their way through collective counterpoint, lyrical solos, and bracing free interludes, as well. Early Ellington is a strong influence, and you can hear that the bandmembers have learned much from ongoing work with musicians like Braxton, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, and Joe McPhee, but they all have forged distinctive voices on their instruments. Let’s hope this long-distance Trans-Atlantic relationship continues, as this is a group that deserves to be more than an occasional project.
http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/monthly2010/10oct_text.html#8

JazzMag review by Philippe Méziat

Squid’s Ear review by Paul Serralheiro

Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)
 The subtlety of the music by this quartet is obviously the result of the close listening and the sensitive interaction of its members, whose playing blends superbly in this recording. The finely wrought textures of layered sound and silence are excellently captured and the acoustic nuances of the instruments come though sublimely, from Taylor Ho Bynum’s softly articulated cornet and flugelhorn, Harris Eisenstadt’s ecstatic drumming, Dominic Lash’s throbbing bass and Alexander Hawkins’ eloquent piano explorations.

Some prominent examples of these dynamics arise in the staccato theme of “Second,” the flowing melodic unfolding of “Next Convergence,” or the spacious atmospherics and unhurried development of “Baobas.” In the latter, Bynum’s velvety sound and the creative devices of each of the musicians come to play in a piece that is out of time, but rhythmically interesting, nonetheless — one of the challenges of this kind of music which grafts compositional form with in-the-moment acoustical abstraction. Bynum’s tone is equally exquisite in “Iris,” wherein he explores the trumpet’s sonic possibilities in extended techniques reminiscent of players like Bill Dixon and Natsuki Tamura.

These musicians have all had extensive experience as sidemen in the projects of veteran players on the creative music scene, like Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith and Cecil Taylor. What they bring to the table is eclecticism that borrows from idiomatic traditions like jazz and classical while taking a step beyond these to create their own sound and concept. This is amply evident in the tribute piece called “Albert Ayler,” which evokes the peaceful garden and hymn-like qualities of Ayler’s music, without mimicking the mannerisms.

The album’s title piece calls itself a “blues,” but although it starts with a muted cornet/drum duet reminiscent of Joe Oliver, it is only a blues in the most general sense of visceral expressiveness. It quickly shifts to a more modal sound, an elastic approach to harmony, and takes many liberties of form and textures that people like Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter never probably even dreamed of, although I suspect someone as forward-looking and open-minded as Gil Evans would thoroughly approve. Something resembling Kind of Blue also comes up in “The Pitts,” as it does in the quiet impressionist in “Representations 17,” with masterful use of space and harmonies, especially from Hawkins’ piano.

The joyful gospel/calypso “Kudala (Long Ago)” is the most traditional in melodic, harmonic, formal and rhythmic intention and kind of sticks out as a little cloying in comparison to the other more robust and creative pieces. But that is balanced by the rest of the disc, which offers many profound moments of listening.
http://www.squidsear.com/cgi-bin/news/newsView.cgi?newsID=1199