Sunday, 1 September 2013

20. Coleman Hawkins: The King Of The Tenor Sax 1929 - 1943

This is a fantastic album that showcases one of the great innovators in jazz, Coleman Hawkins. The tracks selected on this album clearly demonstrate how Hawkins was not a person to rest on his laurels. He was constantly looking to progress his sound and not to be pigeon-holed.

"Hello Lola" and "One Hour" open the album. They are tracks that show that, even in 1929, Coleman Hawkins was establishing the tenor sax as a serious jazz instrument. The solos on these songs are wonderfully crafted. Like all soloists at this time he was heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong having worked with him previously in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. (The recordings are also notable for featuring a young Gene Krupa).

In 1933 Hawkins was still plying his trade with Henderson. However, "Jamaica Shout" demonstrates how much his sound had developed. The pyrotechnics he employs show that he had full confidence in his playing at this time. "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" from 1934 should be taught to all aspiring jazz musicians on how to tastefully improvise around a melody with Buck Washington on piano throwing in some tempo changes for good measure.

By 1935, like a number of his contemporaries, Hawkins had left for Europe to embark on new musical adventures. Just as the U.S. was soon to be in the thrall of the Swing era, Hawkins was to seek new musical challenges by teaming up with the likes of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and making a series of seminal jazz tracks. Included here are "Avalon", "Honeysuckle Rose" and the majestic "Stardust". Hawkins was completely reinvigorated and returned to New York to lay down the earth shattering, "Body and Soul", of which I expounded upon in the blog (here).

The album continues with Hawkins fully embracing and influencing the musical fertile ground of the early 1940's. "Dinah" features Lionel Hampton and a pre-bop Dizzy Gillespie. The next four tracks feature the Coleman Hawkins All Star Quartet, including Benny Carter (somewhat unusually on trumpet), Danny Polo on clarinet and the always excellent J.C. Higginbottom on trombone plying their way through some swing standards.

During the time that the final songs were recorded, World War II had begun and a musical revolution was in the air, as exemplified by "Boff Boff (Mop Mop)". Swing was soon to become old hat among the younger players coming through. Coleman Hawkins had no desire to be left behind. The album finishes off with the superb "The Man I Love". Oscar Pettiford's (one of the aforementioned younger players) breathing can be heard over his bass solo and Hawkins' solo simply oozes class. A taster of what was to come in the remainder of his career.

1. Hello, Lola!
2. One Hour (If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight)
3. Jamaica Shout
4. On the Sunny Side of the Street
5. I Wish I Were Twins
6. Avalon
7. Honeysuckle Rose
8. Stardust
9. Well, All Right Then
10. Body and Soul
11. Dinah
12. When Day Is Done
13. The Sheik of Araby
14. My Blue Heaven
15. Bouncing with Bean
16. Feedin' the Bean
17. Boff Boff (Mop Mop)
18. My Ideal
19. Stumpy
20. Crazy Rhythm
21. The Man I Love