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Coleman Hawkins: Ultimate

Sonny Rollins has made such an excellent choice of titles for this “ultimate” collection that I feel quite apologetic. After he recorded with Hawkins in 1963, I remember telling the latter (in the Copper Rail bar during an intermission from the mirrored Metropole) that I had heard the album they made together. Asked what I thought of it, I answered boldly, if unfairly, “Don’t do it again!” He laughed.

Thirteen of the sixteen selections here are from producer Harry Lim’s glory days at Keynote in 1944. The program opens with the unaccompanied 1947 “Picasso,” and there are a couple of tracks with Oscar Peterson. Ten have Teddy Wilson on piano and three have Earl Hines. These last are from the Cozy Cole session with Joe Thomas and Trummy Young, one of Lim’s greatest successes, and the disc ends fittingly with Young’s splendid “Through for the Night.” “I loved Earl Hines with him,” Rollins observes in his notes. Hawk is everywhere impressive, and his “gorgeous tone” is also stressed. It has certainly never been bettered and is indeed the “ultimate.” He liked to explain his big sound not in terms of loudness but of fullness.

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