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Sonny Rollins/Coleman Hawkins: Sonny Meets Hawk

Even in the ’50s and ’60s, Sonny Rollins’ records were inconsistent, including masterpieces, solid-but-not-great dates, and relatively flat outings, but it’s hard to think of a record that divided opinion as much as his meeting with Coleman Hawkins. Some felt that his playful interpretations of Hawk’s ideas amounted to an Oedipal attack, while others ranked it with his best playing. Surely the first group wasn’t paying attention to Sonny’s other records, where he turned his own ideas upside-down even more violently. Nor did they notice that Hawkins responded to the challenge with some of his best, and most far-reaching, late work. Paul Bley moves from one frame of reference to the other with impressive effortlessness, and asserts his own mysterious concept where appropriate. The CD is rounded out with the three tracks recorded for the sampler Three in Jazz featuring Sonny with Don Cherry. These brief, merely excellent performances don’t measure up to the spectacular live recordings by this quartet, but they offer further evidence of Rollins, unpredictable brilliance during the period.

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