Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #30

Coleman Hawkins.  The Hawk Flies High (1957).  "In the beginning, on tenor sax, there was Coleman Hawkins and only Coleman Hawkins."  So opens the liner notes for The Hawk Flies High.  Indeed, Hawkins was the first great jazz saxophone player when he played with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in the 1920s.  In the late 1930s he recorded the classic version of  the ballad Body and Soul, probably his most well-known performance, considered by many to be an "evolutionary step in jazz recording."  Although he was a pioneer of the Swing Era, he moved comfortably into the Bebop Era, recording with modern jazz icons such as Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.  Following a relatively fallow period in the early 1950s, Hawkins made a strong comeback with a series of albums, starting with The Hawk Flies High, which was recorded in 1957.  It includes young modern players like trombonist J.J. Johnson and trumpeter Idrees Sulieman along with a more traditional rhythm section of Hank Jones on piano, Oscar Pettiford on bass and Jo Jones on drums.  As Kevin Whitehead noted on Fresh Air in his review of the 2008 reissue of the album, the band perfectly complemented Hawkins who "had one foot in the past and a step toward the future."  Even after four decades of recording, Hawkins sounds fresh and powerful on this album which runs the gamut from lush ballads (Laura) to classic swing (Sanctity) to more modern bop (Chant).  As one critic concluded, "He lost little of his edge throughout his life, and the later sessions like this one are small treasures."

[Related posts:  Great Jazz Albums,  #1 (Hank Mobley), #2 (Horace Silver), #3 (Sonny Rollins), #4 (Sonny Clark), #5 (Dexter Gordon), #6 (Cannonball Adderley), #7 (Bill Evans), #8 (McCoy Tyner), #9 (Clifford Brown), #10 (Sinatra), #11 (Monk), #12 (Kenny Dorham), #13 (Coltrane), #14 (Duke Ellington), #15 (Miles Davis), #16 (Wayne Shorter), #17 (Dinah Washington); #18 (Sarah Vaughan); #19 (Stan Getz); #20 (Blue Mitchell); #21 (Gene Ammons); #22 (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers); #23 (Red Garland); #24 (Ella Fitzgerald); #25 (Charlie Parker); #26 (Art Pepper); #27 (Bud Powell); #28 (John Hicks); #29 (Kenny Barron)]


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