This morning, we are thrilled to welcome pianist, organist, composer and bandleader, Alexander Hawkins, who is ‘unlike anything else in modern creative music’ (Ni Kantu).
Operating in myriad creative contexts (including Convergence Quartet, Decoy and the Alexander Hawkins Ensemble), his own highly distinctive soundworld is forged through the search to reconcile both his love of free improvisation and his profound fascination with composition and structure.
Sit back, enjoy and bask in the apricity of these selections.
Alexander Hawkins’s selection
Harriet Tubman - Ritual Rubbin
Alexander Hawkins: “I’m a big fan of Harriet Tubman. Brandon Ross’s rhythmic concept is amazing to me. Like Bill Frisell or Otto Fischer, his lines have an incredible elasticity, whilst at the same time remaining completely in the pocket; similarly, they can have a meandering quality, at the same time as seeming completely inevitable. JT Lewis’ drumming is also fantastic: pared down to the essentials of the groove, and somehow simultaneously heavy and dancing. I also love how the two DJs add to the texture here, and the great sample which drops at the end of this track.“
Elaine Mitchener - Watching the Rituals
Alexander Hawkins: “I’m very proud to be a collaborator of Elaine Mitchener. Yes, she has an astonishing technical command in a wide variety of idioms (here, there are very clear elements of both opera and R&B, for example); but what I think is most amazing about her artistry is her ability to synthesise her influences and facility at all times into something thoroughly compelling for the listener. She has particular gift in her ability to take an audience with her in even the most extreme and avant-garde settings. This short track is a nice introduction in many ways, showing both her awareness of the communicative power of a conventional melody, as well the expressive potential of the outer limits of the voice.“
Maurizio Pollini - Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
Alexander Hawkins: “Pollini is an obsession of mine. Like that of Thelonious Monk, his playing is completely stripped of any histrionics: it’s concentrated, distilled, selfless musicality. Everything is in the service of the music, and it is through this that a giant character emerges, rather than through mannerisms and affectation (and goodness knows these are easily found in the music world). As was said of Monk, it’s also true of Pollini: sentiment without the sentimentality. He is also inspirational for his uncompromising political views: to see real electricity in a performance, try to find the footage of him playing Beethoven for the workers in an occupied factory in Genoa in 1972. And I love Chopin; the more I listen, the weirder and more cryptic a lot of his work seems.“
Alexander Hawkins - [K]now
Sanjay: “Alexander is pretty prolific at the moment. As well as a recent release with Chicago/London Underground on Cuneiform Records, this track is from his forthcoming ensemble album to be released in June. Joyously reminiscent of some of the great improvisors of the past – Thelonious Monk, Elmo Hope and Steve Lacy – this is a beautiful meandering piece with delicate cymbal-edge sounds, glistening piano chords and bass clarinet sighs whirling around some spoken word.“
Muhal Richard Abrams - Expression 1
Sanjay: “Sometimes sedate and grand, intermittently explosive, and unarguably brilliant. Muhal’s arrangements created a new kind of music that pushed free jazz to the borders of classical music and laid the foundations for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which he co-founded with Jodie Christian, Steve McCall and Phil Cohran. I could listen to him all day.“
Alarm Will Sound - Particularly Competitive
Sanjay: “I was hooked on Alarm Will Sound after hearing their acoustic arrangements of Aphex Twin’s music on their bleeding-edge 2005 album, Acoustica. They are a 20-member chamber orchestra whose name has become synonymous with new and emerging contemporary classical work. Whether the music is playful or spiteful, dramatic or lighthearted, Alarm Will Sound always seem to nail the performance.“
Stefan Christoff & David Parker - Beyond Injustice
Sanjay: “I follow a lot of stuff from this corner of the world. Montréal collectives Howl! Arts, Free City Radio, Casa Del Popolo, La Sala Rossa, La Vitrola (and many more writers, musicians and artists) combine to facilitate a politically engaged DIY arts scene. Contrary to the swooning international media, Canada is not immune to, but complicit in, the ravages of neoliberalism.
In their own words, ‘this recording [in 2013] is inspired by the struggle against the current expansion of the prison industrial complex under the conservative government in Canada. Although tones on their own can’t bring down prison walls, or rip down barbed wire, hopefully this recording can speak to the passion that drives prison abolitionists, the human spirit driving thousands of people fighting to undercut regressive, expansionist prison policies under the conservatives. All love is revolutionary, all life is struggle.’“