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Album Review

Ostensibly a jam session with ABA head-solos-tail formatting, Hawkins proves again and again why his sound is not only the epitome of jazz, but forever timeless. Trumpeter Joe Thomas and trombonist Vic Dickenson are by no means showboats, and they cannot steal the spotlight from Bean. But Tommy Flanagan threatens to on occasion, as he asserts himself on solos with a fervor that goes beyond Hawkins. Bubbling under all this virtuosity, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Osie Johnson do their swinging thing with open ears and instruments always at the ready to fire. They start with "You Blew Out the Flame In My Heart," and it seems a bit of a breeze for these jazz experts. Hawkins plays the melody by himself the first time through, then Thomas and Dickenson join in on invitation. The deep blue, slightly vibratoed, soulful resonance of the leader is unmistakable as always, and Flanagan is his usual tasteful and precise self. They switch up on the end melody, with the brass fronting the line while Hawkins improvises, then takes back the tuneful departing chorus. Johnson wrote "More Bounce to the Vonce," a peppy gospel-soul tune reminiscent of "Travel On." Flanagan is featured with no horns, then they join with phrases similar to "Lil' Liza Jane." All save bass and drums get a solo over nine minutes. Hawkins leads the melody of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" with staccato brass punctuations of harmony, and Dickenson's solo displaying that he not only plays notes, but also embodies pure rhythmic swing. The easy swing of "Cool Blue" has growling trombone, squeaky-clean trumpet and moaning tenor. Thomas and the underappreciated Emmett Berry are good case studies for comparison; here Thomas exemplifes the virtue of unrushed construction of a solo. Hawkins and Johnson claim co-writing credit on the 12-minute-plus "Some Stretching," a good old soulfully swinging jam over just a couple of tonal notes. The trio uses double stops for Hawkins' leadoff solo, and then he digs in for an elongated full count extended by numerous not-so-foul tips. Hanging with every pitch and waiting in the wings is Flanagan, whose masterful pianistics are worth the wait while the others hit singles. It's Flanagan who delivers the grand salami. The demonstrative yet subtle Hawkins is in full flight here, with the equally elegant Thomas and naturally subdued Dickenson in lock step. What a joy they must have been to hear together at a club or concert date, if in fact it happened in this small-group setting. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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