Last night at One Step Down, bassist Marshall Hawkins, tenor saxophonist Buck Hill, fluegelhornist Kenny Reed, pianist Reuben Brown and drummer Bernard Sweetney performed as the Marshall Hawkins Quintet. Tomorrow they will appear at Baltimore's Famous Ballroom as The Washington Allstars. It's a title they richly deserve.
Every member had his moment in last night's late-starting set of mainstream bebop and post-hop. Hawkins, the leader, took a blistering blues solo with small slide notes sneaked between his rapid plucking.
Reed was at his best on ballads where he could carefully shape the sustained notes. Sweetney's accompaniment was full of short rhythmic explosions that accented without overwhelming. On Brown's intro to one tune, his indepedent left hand would rise in power to overcome his right hand, only to ebb away and reveal the melody again.
The standout performance, though, was by Hill, who recently recorded with a prestigious trio in Europe. Last night, Hill established his key phrases so forcefully that they lingered, resonating in a listener's head. As a result, Hill's subsequent digressions almost seemed to produce a duet with himself. The harmonies produced by this technique were consistenly rich and inventive.
The quintet returns to One Step Down tonight and again tomorrow night after their Baltimore engagement.