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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Hawk Blows At Midnight - Erskine Hawkins

Tippin' In
The Hawk Blows At Midnight
Erskine Hawkins Quintet
Decca Records DL 74081

From the back cover: Hawkin's background in jazz is a long and distinguished one. Born in 1914 in Birmingham, Ala., he studies trumpet and began leading a college band while attending Alabama State Teacher's College. Leaving his home state in 1934, he brought the band to New York and opened August 11 at a vaudeville theater known as the Harlem Opera Hours, on 125th Street.

During the next decade the band built a firm following, using Manhattan as its principal base of operations. In 1935 Erskine embarked on what turned out to be a nine-month engagement at the Ubangi, one of the last of the old-time Harlem cabarets featuring a big show with singers, dancers, comedians and the band. But the most celebrated association of the orchestra in the late 1930s was the Savoy Ballroom, where Erskine worked so often and for such long stretches that his was virtually a house band.

An infectiously swinging band of music was dispensed by Erskine's men at the Lenox Avenue dance mecca (and it is important to remember that the Savoy was first and foremost a ballroom rather than a jazz center). Before long some of the bandleaders from downstairs, digging the sounds at the "Track," as the Savoy was nicknamed, borrowed and expanded some of the ideas that had originated there.

Originally known as Erskine Hawkins and his 'Bama State Collegians, the band began its recording career in New York in July of 1936 and continued to record regularly until the early '50s. Despite all the problems confronting leaders who had tried to survive the chaotic post-swing years, Erskine maintained the big band format until 1955. After disbanding he headed various groups; he still fronts a larger orchestra from time to time.

The group heard on these sides is an expansion of the quartet formed by Erskine in April, 1960. Sharing the front line with hime here is Bobby Smith, the alto saxophonist and composer-arranger who was an important figure in the old band from 1941 on. Leroy Kirkland, the guitarist and arranger also as a member of the band during most of same period. The group is completed by pianist Ernest Hayes, drummer Step Shepard (formerly with Bill Dogged) and the well known bassist Lloyd Trotman, who has worked with Duke Ellington and many other name bands and combos. – Leonard Feather

From Billboard - February 6, 1961: Erstwhile 1940's band leader Hawkins turns to the combo format here with good, pop-styled jazz results. He is joined on the date by alto man Bobby Smith and a rhythm group. Songs are a melange of standards like "Love Is Here To Stay," and older tunes identified with Hawkins, like "Tuxedo Junction" and "Tippin In." Danceable, listenable jazz that can have appeal in the kind of pop circles that dig the Jonah Jones approach, as well more pure jazz fans.

Tuxedo Junction
Love Is Here To Stay
Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat
Midnight Still
Blue Embers
Things Ain't What They Used To Be
The Birth Of The Blues
Tippin' In
If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)
Deep Purple
Hawkin' Around

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