Hampton Hawes: The Green Leaves of Summer
The Green Leaves of Summer
Hampton Hawes (piano)
The Green Leaves of Summer (Original Jazz Classics 476)
Steve Ellington (drums).
Composed by Paul Frances Webster and Dmitri Tiomkin.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 17, 1964
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
After a drug bust on his 30th birthday in 1958, Hawes was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but eventually sought and received executive clemency from President Kennedy in 1963, just three months before Kennedy's assassination. On Hawes' fourth Christmas day spent in prison, the film The Alamo" had been shown, and as he wrote in his autobiography, the tune "The Green Leaves of Summer" from the soundtrack "kept humming through my mind and I told myself I would try to record it if I ever saw daylight again." Hawes got his wish to record the Academy Award-nominated song on his first album after his release. The LP's dust jacket featured a color photograph of Hawes that made him look like a matinee idol or male model, or, as he wrote of it years later, "I might have been the Super Fly of 1963, the Flash Gordon of the niggers." Contemporary Records founder Lester Koenig's extensive original liner notes skillfully managed to make absolutely no mention of where Hawes had been for the past six years.
Hawes turns "The Green Leaves of Summer," which had already been sung on recordings by the likes of The Brothers Four, Marty Robbins, and Eddy Arnold, into an invigorating jazz waltz. Hawes' long unaccompanied rubato intro is reflective, tinged with an air of sadness, and of classical derivation. When the pianist focuses on the theme, and bass and drums join in, the mood of the intro is maintained until the tempo is gradually increased. Hawes then uses an insistent left hand pattern to propel his improvisation, effectively mixing staccato note clusters with earnest declamations of select thematic phrases. He eventually retreats to the more languid pace from where he began, and finishes with a sustained trill and a tumbling lower octave run that never quite resolves, dissolving instead into thin air. A gem of a performance, one that emphatically announced Hawes' return to the scene to all concerned.
Reviewer: Scott Albin