Monday, February 07, 2011

Raise up off meRaise up off me by Hampton Hawes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jazz pianist Hampton Hawes led an extraordinary life (a lot of living crammed into just 48 years! and this biography, published near the time of his death in 1977, details his adventures and mis-adventures. He was a child prodigy on the keyboard, learning from family members with little formal training. Pretty soon he was gigging on the competitive Los Angeles jazz scene on the legendary Central Avenue with the likes of saxophonist Wardell Gray and Charles Migus. Like the man he idolized, saxophonist Charlie Parker, Hawes developed a debilitating heroin addiction which dogged his every move early in his career. Despite this he was able to tour and make records of great renown, even though he served lengthy narcotics related prison sentences both in the Army and in the civilian world. Hawes tells the harrowing stories of his repeated attempts to get off of the drug and wonderful stories of jazz and jazz musicians from the 1950's to the 1970's. This is one of the most unflinching accounts of the jazz life, rivaling Art Pepper's biography Straight Life for the story of the intersection of narcotics and music. Hawes tells a wonderful tale in an excellent straightforward voice. This is a book that all jazz fans should make an effort to track down. Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes

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