The following review is an excerpt from Something in the Air (December 2017/January 2018) which can be read in its entirety here.
Another pianist who is equally valuable in international collaborations as leader and sideperson is the United Kingdom’s Alexander Hawkins, 36. On Sideralis (Dodicilune Dischi Ed 354 dodicilune.it), he joins veteran American heavy hitters, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerry Hemingway as part of Italian saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano’s QuarkTet, to interpret ten of Ottaviano’s compositions that range from rhythm numbers to ballads. Checking off the saxophonist’s influences, Planet Nichols, Ottaviano’s stop-time salute to pianist Herbie Nichols, gets much of its rollicking shape from Hawkins’ high-frequency key splatters and crescendos, with a walking bass line and cymbal breaks also contributing. At the same time the power of Formanek’s accompaniment on Planet John Lee Hooker, coupled with singular soprano saxophone breaths, makes the tune appear more a salute to Charles Mingus than the Mississippi bluesman. Replete with shadowing of the composer’s every breath on Berenice’s Code, Hawkins’ keyboard caressing preserves the balladic mood while moving the piece linearly. Centaurus’ lilt is cemented by inner piano string plucks that confirm the composition’s jocular theme, with Hemingway’s bell pealing and the pianist’s key slaps and crunches deconstructing and extending the melody until the saxophonist’s tiny reed bites reel it into straight-ahead swing. This same freedom that never exceeds its parameters is displayed on the title tune. Stopped keys and scrubbing slides from the pianist plus the drummer’s rubs provide the perfect contrast to Ottaviano’s intense note puffing. Subsequent return to a rumbling pulse confirms the tune’s gentle motion and the collaborative skill of this ad-hoc quartet.