“The first release of my large ensemble music,” Alexander Hawkins says, referring to a summertime double CD that marks a decade of the magic touch pianist-composer’s ensemble and which is currently streaming.
Recorded in different London studios two and a half months apart in late 2016-early 2017, compositions on Unit[e] are mainly Hawkins’ plus a piece by the Revolutionary Ensemble’s Jerome Cooper, and a co-write involving all members of the sextet who are violinist Dylan Bates, bassist Neil Charles, guitarist Otto Fischer, Hawkins, reedist Shabaka Hutchings and drummer Tom Skinner all familiar from Step Wide, Step Deep. The first seven tracks feature this sextet, while the last five are the more populated work Hawkins is referring to that happens to involve a 13-piece orchestra. Human’s Stephen Davis is the drummer on the Unit[e] large ensemble while other personnel in the larger outfit also include Dinosaur’s Laura Jurd and Hawkins’ Mulatu Step Ahead bandmate James Arben. A stirringly Art Ensemble of Chicago-like sound adventure where tonalities shift and shudder, rhythms rattle and hum, the double album is released in July on Hawkins’ own label. Before then in a pipeline of releases Hawkins appears on Roberto Ottaviano’s Sideralis, and on Human’s highly stimulating Fractured Lands.