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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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COLEMAN HAWKINS

Live in '62 and '64

Jazz Icons by Naxos 2.119020

 

 


Belgium, 1962
1. Disorder at the Border
2. Autumn Leaves
3. Lover Come Back to Me
4. Moonlight in Vermont
5. All The Things You Are
6. Ow!

Coleman Hawkins - Tenor sax
Georges Arvanitas - Piano
Jimmy Woode - Bass
Kansas Fields - Drums

England, 1964
7. Disorder at the Border
8. Lover Man, Stella By Starlight, The Girl from Ipanema
9. What Is This Thing Called Love
10. Stoned
11. September Song, What's New, Willow Weep For Me
12. Centerpiece
13. Caravan

Coleman Hawkins - Tenor sax
Harry "Sweets" Edison - Trumpet
"Sir" Charles Thompson - Piano
Jimmy Woode - Bass
"Papa" Jo Jones - Drums

 

This DVD contains two concerts which confirm Coleman Hawkins's stature as the doyen of tenor saxophonists. The first session, recorded in Belgium in 1962 at the Adolphe Sax Festival, has been newly discovered and has not previously been issued. It features Hawkins simply with a rhythm section, led by French pianist Georges Arvanitas. Arvanitas is not as well-known as he deserves to be, although he was the first-choice accompanist for many American musicians visiting Europe. He backs the other players sensitively and contributes some well-constructed solos. Jimmy Woode's bass provides a firm foundation for the quartet (despite his tendency to speed up), and my only reservation about this one-hour set is drummer Kansas Fields, whose theatrical style of playing seems more designed to attract attention to him than to respond helpfully to Coleman Hawkins. Several times, Fields's drumming wrong-foots Hawk, and makes him uncertain where to enter.

Apart from this, the black-and-white footage is nice and clear, and the sound is acceptable if occasionally a little fuzzy (for instance, in the piano solo on Lover Come Back to Me). This session begins with the same easy-swinging blues that opens the later set: Disorder at the Border, a Hawkins composition. In this, Coleman exhibits his fluent swing which is technically brilliant - but always at the service of melody. Jimmy Woode's bass solo is rather too quiet and Kansas Fields drum solo is the opposite - although it is interrupted halfway through by Kansas having trouble with his bass-drum pedal. Hawkins is undeterred but returns to improvising with extreme fluency. Autumn Leaves lets Hawk show his paces in a ballad, where he spins new melodies from the old thread. Arvanitas may look like a bank clerk but he plays like an angel.

And so this pleasurable session continues until the closing Ow!, which shows why the drumming is not always satisfactory. You can see that the hi-hat cymbals are playing on the on-beat instead of the usual offbeat. This sometimes unbalances the music - a fault which is also clear in the lengthy exchange of fours between tenor sax and drums, where the drummer sometimes seems to throw Coleman off-balance.

The second session - recorded at Wembley Town Hall for the BBC TV series Jazz 625 - has a more satisfactory drummer in Jo Jones, although the recording is poorly balanced, which can make the drums sound too loud. The echoey acoustic doesn't help, either. However, this is a more varied and interesting set than the previous one, as it has the bonus of trumpeter Harry Edison, whose impassive face (and disconcertingly Hitlerian hair) belies the blues feeling in his many excellent solos. The pianist is "Sir" Charles Thompson, whose accompanying and solos are consistently elegant.

This programme is unusual in that it includes not one but two ballad medleys. The first one begins with Hawkins strolling at a leisurely pace through Lover Man. Then Charles Thompson chooses his notes with discretion in Stella by Starlight, and Harry Edison climaxes the set with an unexpected The Girl from Ipanema on muted trumpet, which virtually steals the show.

The up-tempo What Is This Thing Called Love? includes a subtle solo from Jo Jones using brushes. Stoned proves that Coleman Hawkins could be as muscular as any tenor-saxist. This is followed by another ballad medley, in which Harry Edison shines again with Willow Weep for Me. Edison wrote Centerpiece, a nice-and-easy blues which includes a magisterial solo from Hawkins. The concert ends with Caravan, which gives the smiling Jo Jones the chance to show off with a long drum solo. It is imposingly faultless, as he attacks the drums with hands as well as sticks, and varies the dynamics to great effect.

With more than two hours of footage., this DVD is yet another very desirable release in the Jazz Icons series.

Tony Augarde



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