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Jazz Masters, Vol. 34: Coleman Hawkins

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Album Review

Best Of, of course, is just a marketing slogan, for this roundup of late-period Bean only covers a less-than-four-year patch in a career that spanned five decades. It does, however, provide a useful survey of a time in which Hawkins was recording prolifically for Prestige and its Swingville and Moodsville subsidiaries. Hawkins was then in his mid-'50s, his matchless tone still in prime smoky form, his harmonic ideas pretty much set after decades of keeping an open ear and mind, but still willing to investigate the latest trends and developments. While a snappy, hard-swinging "I'm Beginning to See the Light" leads off the survey, and another romping slice of Ellingtonia, "In a Mellotone," turns up later, these tracks are anomalies, for the majority of the tunes are relaxed, laid-back blowing sessions where Bean's tenor sprawls comfortably as if from an easy chair. One reason for "Mellotone's" relative fire, no doubt, is the spirited competition that Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis provides; their trading of fours near the close rouses Hawkins to offer some gritty rejoinders. Though not known as a bluesman per se, Hawkins still does an agreeable job with the soul-jazz "Soul Blues" that, alas, starts to run out of steam before its nearly ten-minute length is consumed. While at times one can question the reasoning behind what is "best" — "Greensleeves," for example, is mostly a bore — Bean's majestic personality still makes an indelible impression in this selection. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


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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Jazz Masters, Vol. 34: Coleman Hawkins, Coleman Hawkins
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