Alexander Hawkins Ensemble - Step Wide, Step Deep / Song Singular (4 stars)

Two releases showcase inventive approach of brilliant young Oxford pianist and collaborators

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Alexander Hawkins Ensemble - Step Wide, Step Deep / Song Singular

(Babel Label)

Step Wide, Step Deep (●●●●) sees the brilliant young Oxford pianist Alexander Hawkins lead a new incarnation of his sextet through a playfully knotty set of tunes. On 'Step Wide, Step Deep / Space of Time Danced Thru', Shabaka Hutchings' bass clarinet climbs giddily up the slant staircase Hawkins and drummer Tom Skinner construct, before a reflective mid-section of shimmering guitar and piano ushers in a rolling bop groove that builds to a satisfying free improv climax. The wistful blues theme of 'Advice' showcases Bates' terrific Hot Club-meets-Billy Bang fiddling, while the closing 'Assemble/Melancholy' weaves abstract group improvisation around strong melodic cells.

An inspired synthesis of avant-garde and classic jazz strategies, Hawkins' solo piano debut, Song Singular (●●●●), is perhaps even better. Snatches of 'Take The A Train' intersect Cecil Taylor-like torrents of geometric energy, while his inventive chord voicings bring a beautiful dissonance to even the most delicate moments.

ALEXANDER HAWKINS ENSEMBLE - 'Step Wide, Step Deep - Space of Time Danced Thru'

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