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Yves Francois: Blues for Hawk

This is trumpeter Yves Francois’ album in name and in fact, but he organized these dates in the 1980s to give exposure to two Chicago saxophone heroes, Franz Jackson and Eddie Johnson. Some of the tracks were released 20 years ago on an obscure label. Several are previously unissued, though, and Francois edited in new trumpet solos in place of some of his old ones (he says that he plays better now), so it amounts to a new CD. The repertoire and the musical approach are mainstream swing with traditional tendencies.

Jackson’s tenor sax style resembles that of his contemporary Coleman Hawkins, although more in tone than harmonic complexity. On clarinet, alto and soprano, his antecedents are less obvious, but he plays each horn with clarity and vigor. Johnson leans more toward the Don Byas-Lucky Thompson tenor school, as he makes plain in his solos on “Roll ‘Em Pete” and “Melancholy Baby.” There is a stimulating contrast between the two when Jackson plays tenor. Whenever they were recorded, Francois’ choruses have muscle, swagger and a generous quotient of growls. Two of his tunes, “Kathy” and “Just a Feeling,” achieve a floating Johnny Hodges ballad mood.

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