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June 2001

Coleman Hawkins featuring Kenny Clarke
Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Vol. 13: Lausanne 1949
TCB

The father of the tenor saxophone was in superb form at this concert 52 years ago. Working here primarily with pianist Jean-Paul Mangeon, bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke, Hawkins maintains a standard of instrumental excellence and harmonic facility that remains amazing today. His improvisational modus operandi was the arpeggio, and he forcefully drives his harmonically delineated ideas and connections home with a big, masculine tone and a powerful sense of swing.

These were the days when bebop had taken hold of jazz, and although Hawkins wasn't a bebopper, he adapted to the idiom well because of his advanced harmonic literacy and contemporary thinking. Alto saxophonist Hubert Fol, tenor saxophonist James Moody and trombonist Nat Peck appear on five of the 12 tracks, and they, along with Clarke, are hipper as bebop linguists. But Hawkins, then 45, shows no signs insecurity or outdated playing.

The tunes are familiar Hawkins fare: his own compositions "Rifftide," "Stuffy," and "Disorder at the Border," plus meaty ballads (not always taken a ballad tempo) such as "It's the Talk of the Town," "The Man I Love," and "Sophisticated Lady," and, of course, "Body and Soul," the song he had stamped as the tenor saxophonist's national anthem with his famous 1939 recording. If you're a saxophonist, take a lesson from these mighty performances. If not, know that the formidable standards set by Hawkins are not in danger of disappearing.

Originally published in June 2001
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