Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coleman Hawkins - The Stanley Dance Sessions (Lonehill Jazz, 2005)

I had been curious about this disc for a while, since I read that this was the only Hawkins disc that had been rated “core collection” by the latest edition of the Penguin Guide to Jazz. Dance was a British jazz writer and in the late 1950’s he came to the United States to make a series of jazz LP’s one of which, The High and Mighty Hawk, is the cornerstone of this disc. The session for that album features Hawkins on tenor saxophone, Buck Clayton on trumpet, Hank Jones on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Mickey Sheen on drums. Opening with “Bird of Prey Blues” the band sets a medium-up feel, with Hawkins spooling out a strong and swinging solo. Jones contributes a light touch during his solo spot, and then yields to Brown whose steady pace in the spotlight brings them back to re-stating the melody and taking the tune out. Ballads were always a Hawkins specialty, he had great patience and fortitude at slower tempos, and “My One and Only Love” shows his deep, breathy saxophone coupled with a lovely piano solo. “Vignette” is an excellent performance as well, the band glides back into a comfortable medium-up tempo, with fine trumpet and deep elastic bass setting the table for Hawkins who responds with a deep and vibrant solo which radiates well controlled strength. The deep masculinity of his tone also pervades the Hawkins original “Ooh-Wee, Miss GP!” where he bursts through the musical setting laid by Clayton’s pinched trumpet. The standard ballad “You’ve Changed” has the band simmering down into the patience and endurance that was indicative of their playing at slower tempos. Wrapping up the original album is the blowing piece “Get Set” that features Hawkins contributing a fast and smoothly swinging solo. Also included on this album is a three song session Hawkins led in 1958, but more notably are a couple of live recordings from 1955 that wrap up the disc. After prompting by the MC, Hawkins plays a short unaccompanied solo, which is fascinating to listen to, and then takes the band into a very strong recording of “The Man I Love.” This was an interesting album, particularly for swing era fans. Hawkins is in unflappable form throughout, and the album puts him a sympathetic setting with ample opportunity to solo at length. It marks a good place to start investigating this legendary jazz figure.
The Stanley Dance Sessions -

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