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Hampton Hawes

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Biography

Hampton Hawes was one of the finest jazz pianists of the 1950s, a fixture on the Los Angeles scene who brought his own interpretations to the dominant Bud Powell style. In the mid- to late '40s, he played with Sonny Criss, Dexter Gordon, and Wardell Gray, among others on Central Avenue. He was with Howard McGhee's band (1950-1951), played with Shorty Rogers and the Lighthouse All-Stars, served in the Army (1952-1954), and then led trios in the L.A. area, recording many albums for Contemporary. Arrested for heroin possession in 1958, Hawes spent five years in prison until he was pardoned by President Kennedy. He led trios for the remainder of his life, using electric piano (which disturbed his longtime fans) for a period in the early to mid-'70s, but returned to acoustic piano before dying from a stroke in 1977. Hampton Hawes' memoirs, Raise Up Off Me (1974), are both frank and memorable, and most of his records (for Xanadu, Prestige, Savoy, Contemporary, Black Lion, and Freedom) are currently available.

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