Tom Hewson – Essence
(CamJazz. CAMJ 7912-2. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
This is Tom Hewson’s first solo record. His piano playing tends towards the more impressionistic, contemplative end of the spectrum – there are moments of ethereal lightness not unlike Satie or Debussy – though are also pieces which romp along at speed. Invited by the piano maker Bösendorfer to try out a new piano, Hewson recorded this album at their studio in Austria. The recording is full of depth and nuance.
Amongst the eight originals are three well-chosen covers. Kenny Wheeler’s Consolation feels like an exploration of melody – following a line to see where it might lead. Summer, by John Taylor, is a lovely, subtle piece: it starts slowly then picks up its pace as the spaces get filled in. Hewson’s take on Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is both reverential and inventive; he seems to bend some of the chords to make it more his own.
Hewson’s own pieces cover similar territory. Constellations is slow and exploratory. The title track, Essence, contains nods to Bill Evans, hinting at Evans’ Waltz For Debby and Scott LaFaro’s Gloria’s Steps, I think; it is probably hard for a young pianist not to be influenced by Evans – and it makes sense to borrow from the best. There are slower, more romantic pieces such as Processional. Hewson has included some faster, livelier numbers such as Dare I and Major Malfunction which are rhythmically propulsive and imaginative.
The recording is close and intimate: Hewson makes the Bösendorfer sound wonderful, as if it were in the room with you. This record is both meditative and exciting – all in all, rather special.