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The Master

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Album Review

After an extended stint in Europe, Coleman Hawkins returned to the States in 1939 and proceeded to involve himself in New York's burgeoning 52nd Street scene over the next ten years. While jamming and recording with up-and-coming bebop figures like Fats Navarro, Thelonious Monk, and J.J. Johnson, Hawkins also worked with regular bands of his own, refining the combo swing that Lester Young, Red Norvo, the Benny Goodman Sextet, Ellington's "small groups," and Hawkins himself helped forge in the '30s. This Le Jazz release brings together some of the high points of Hawkins' output during this inspired period and features fellow travelers hip to both swing and bebop like tenor saxophonist Don Byas, drummer Cozy Cole, and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Along with additional jazz luminaries like pianist Teddy Wilson, trumpeter Buck Clayton, and baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, Hawkins impeccably moves through 20 choice covers and a few originals. Highlights from the five different 1944 sessions covered here include "I Only Have Eyes for You," gentle strollers like "Under a Blanket of Blue," and, if you will, the miniature cutting contest between Hawkins, Byas, and alto saxophonist Tab Smith heard on "Battle of the Saxes." Buoyed by the rarefied swing laid down by Cole, Sid Catlett, Wilson, et al, Hawkins reels off a string of fertile solos, demonstrating a supreme command of his horn and a penchant for mercurial, yet cogent, phrasing. Along with other fine '40s titles by Hawkins including Bean and the Boys on Prestige and Hollywood Stampede on Capitol, The Master is essential listening for Hawkins fans, and all jazz enthusiasts for that matter.


Born: 21 November 1904 in St. Joseph, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Coleman Hawkins was the first important tenor saxophonist and he remains one of the greatest of all time. A consistently modern improviser whose knowledge of chords and harmonies was encyclopedic, Hawkins had a 40-year prime (1925-1965) during which he could hold his own with any competitor. Coleman Hawkins started piano lessons when he was five, switched to cello at age seven, and two years later began on tenor. At a time when the saxophone was considered a novelty instrument, used in vaudeville...
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