SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Coleman Hawkins Quartet – Today And Now – Impulse Records/Analog Productions

The nocturnal, living room/studio ambiance of Rudy Van Gelder’s original recording is not overshadowed by digital conversion.

Published on October 8, 2011

Coleman Hawkins Quartet – Today And Now – Impulse Records/Analog Productions stereo- only SACD CIPJ 34 SA, 40:36 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****:

(Coleman Hawkins – tenor saxophone; Tommy Flanagan – piano; Major Holley – bass; Eddie Locke – drums)

When Lester Young refers to a fellow tenor as the “first president”, and Sonny Rollins considers this same individual as his main influence…it must be Coleman Hawkins. As a youngster (in the Roaring Twenties), he joined Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York. This group included Louis Armstrong and these two artists became jazz pioneers. “Hawk” or “Bean” as he was called was initially associated with big band swing and played with Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt and Benny Carter. His landmark 1939 recording of Body And Soul reinvented harmonic structure and helped to cultivate post-big band jazz. In the forties he led a band that included Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Oscar Pettiford, laying the groundwork for bebop. Davis once remarked, “When I heard Hawk…I learned to play ballads”.

In 1962 alone, Hawkins recorded several albums, including three for Impulse Records (Today And Now, Desafinado and Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins). Hawkins remained active as a sideman (Abbey Lincoln, Shelly Manne, Monk, Max Roach) and leader until the mid-sixties. He collaborated with Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Roy Eldridge and many others. His talent and musical compatibility kept his services in demand.

Analogue Productions has released Today And Now (originally recorded September 9, 1962) on stereo-only SACD. The opening track “Go Lil Liza” is a freewheeling affair that cultivates an idiosyncratic country or folk nuance. The quartet swings as Hawkins cuts loose on tenor. Solos by Major Holley (on “talking” bass) and Tommy Flanagan (piano), merge into a back groove for a strong finish. “Swingin’ Scotch” (with its Loch Lomond references) increases the tempo with a percolating tenor lead. Flanagan unleashes sparkling piano riffs that sustain the eruptive flow.  The mood of this session is captured in organic blues on “Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet”. “Hawk” delivers late-night vamps that are enticing. His play is devoid of shrillness. The rhythm section is relaxed, but cohesive and provides a natural fit. With a cool swagger, “Don’t Sit UnderThe Apple Tree” breaks free of dance structure and morphs into idiomatic jazz.

There are slower-paced numbers that highlight the intuitive elements of jazz arrangement. Quincy Jones’ “Quintessence” exudes a brooding elegance, as Hawkins explores the melody, using a sensual, vibrato-tinged approach. His propensity to interpret melody is intriguing. On “Love Song From Apache” the supple phrasing is melancholic and lyrical. Flanagan contributes a stellar, pensive solo that sketches the delicate ebb and flow of the core theme.

Analogue Productions has re-mastered the tapes with great precision. Every shade and tone of the saxophone is rendered with fullness and clarity. The nocturnal, living room/studio ambiance of Rudy Van Gelder’s original recording is not overshadowed by digital conversion. The liner notes by Stanley Dance offer detailed accounts of the session, including take counts. Today And Now (also available from Analogue Productions on 45 rpm vinyl) is a glimpse into an indelible era of American music.

TrackList: Go Lil Liza; Quintessence; Don’t Love Me; Love Song From “Apache”; Put On Your Grey Bonnet; Swingin’ Scotch; Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree

—Robbie Gerson

 




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