I don’t usually like jazz that’s unadventurous and doesn’t attempt to expand the boundaries of the music, but I’ll have to make an exception for Hampton Hawes’ All Night Session.
All Night Session! is a pure, unadulterated hard bop date stocked with tunes by Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Duke Jordan, and a bunch of standards from the jazz repertoire, rounded out with some spontaneously composed selections by Hampton Hawes himself.
It’s a blowing session, meaning that the head is played, extended solos are taken by different members of the group, and the head is heard one more time to finish the take. In lesser hands, this is often deadly.
There are several things that make All Night Session! special though. The empathy between the players, especially Hampton Hawes (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), and Eldridge “Bruz” Freeman (drums) is extraordinary, so the music is unusually cohesive and swings like mad. The recording quality is extremely high, too. All the instruments are ideally miked, so you can hear every nuance, which in this case is a blessing. But what really makes the date is the improvisation skills of Hampton Hawes. While not at all a showoff, he demonstrates exemplary taste, constructing his solos with a stunning clarity and confidence. It’s as if his solo statements dropped down fully formed from the sky. Jim Hall (guitar) is no slouch as an improviser either, but as fine as his solos are, it’s Hawes’ show. What Hall brings to the date is variety.
What All Night Session! adds up to is a marathon club date with bebop musicians at the height of their powers, on a good night, with the audience edited out, captured by professional and sympathetic sound engineers.