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Coleman Hawkins, “The Essential Sides Remastered, 1929-39” (JSP, 2006)

If you like Fletcher Henderson, you're gonna love this! Most of these tracks feature a sound very much like Fletch: upbeat, snappy numbers rendered with authority and panache. There is a startling level of interplay between the players that has the listener finding something new with repeat playings. The first cuts are a revelation. The early Chocolate Dandies (including Benny Carter, Fats Waller, Rex Stewart, J.C. Higgenbothamn, among others) produce tighter, more complex playing than any Fletch records from the same period (1929). And Hawk soars to heights he would not produce for Henderson for several years.

The disks work their way through the next decade, with McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Mound City Blowers, Henry Allen All Stars, Benny Carter's Orchestra, and other small goups headed by Hawkins. The Jack Purvis Band swings harder than most of the more famous swing bands that followed. The latter disks feature tracks from his European stay where he plays with some English, French and Dutch jazz bands which seem to be playing their hearts out in honor of Coleman (and, it seems to me, there's exceptional good cheer in Hawk's playing in response). Throughout the disks, one great solo is followed by another, often better. We watch the development of the Hawk as he lays down the vocabulary that was the foundation for most tenor sax men to follow. Not to mention the flawless, rich tone and exciting raw power that characterized his earlier years. This is music that excites in a way that will startle those who only know Hawkins from his later ballad and standard dominated work.

This must have been a true labor of love for Ted Kendall (acolyte of the famed John R.T. Davies). He did a flat out AMAZING job of remastering from the 78's. Even the 1929 sides sound like they were recorded in the fifties. You can distinguish the individual instruments quite clearly, the horns have that snap that goes missing when Kendall's lessers carelessly apply noise reduction. Yet, except for a couple of the European tracks, there is but a faint hint of hiss, and NO pops or tics.

Despite their being over 100 tunes, collected over a mere 10 year span, there are no out-takes, alternates, or other redundancies. And they are all highly listenable at worst to jaw-dropping at best. Kendall did not just round 'em up and slap 'em down (like some European jazz collections who shall remain nameless, Proper Box), he clearly chose with a golden ear what to include. He produced a set of CD's that are highly listenable all the way through, every time.

If you have the good fortune to own the Charlie Parker box set from JSP, you already know that they adhere to the highest of standards. And I like that each disk is safely esconced in it's own full sized jewel box, with each containing a sheet giving full musical lineups, recording dates, and a succinct but informative little essay relating to the tracks on the individual disk. Speaking of the JSP Parker set, I note that it is no longer available on Amazon. If I were you, I would snag this set now lest it too should disappear.

I've heard it rumored that Ted is working on another Hawkins box set covering the next decade. Hope the sales of this one encourages that.

Disc: 1
1. That's How I Feel Today
2. Six Or Seven Times
3. Plain Dirt
4. Gee, Ain't I Good To You
5. I'd Love It
6. The Way I Feel Today
7. Miss Hannah
8. Peggy
9. Wherever there's Will, Baby
10. Hello, Lola
11. One Hour
12. Dismal Dan
13. Poor Richard
14. Down Georgia Way
15. Goodbye Blues
16. Cloudy Skies
17. Got Another Sweetie
18. Bugle Call Rag
19. Dee Blues
20. Georgia On My Mind
21. I Can't Believe You In Love With Me
22. The Darktown Strutter's Ball
23. You Rascal, You
24. Someday, Sweetheart
25. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

Disc: 2
1. Nocturne
2. Somebody Stole Gaberiel's Horn
3. Pastorale
4. Bugle Call Rag
5. Arabesque
6. Fanfare
7. Sweet Sorrow Blues
8. Music At Midnight
9. Sweet Sue - Just You
10. Air In D Flat
11. Donegal Cradle Song
12. Firebird
13. Music At Sunrise
14. How Come You Do Me Like You Do?
15. The River's Taking Care Of Me
16. Ain'tcha Got Music?
17. Stringin' Along On A Shoe String
18. Shadows On The Swanee
19. The Day You Came Along
20. Jamaica Shout
21. Heartbreak Blues
22. Hush My Mouth
23. You're Gonna Lose Your Girl
24. Dark Clouds
25. My Galveston Gal
26. Georgia Jubilee

Disc: 3
1. Junk Man
2. Ol' Pappy
3. Emaline
4. It Sends Me
5. I Ain't Got Nobody
6. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
7. Lullaby
8. Lady Be Good
9. Lost In A Fog
10. Honeysuckle Rose
11. Some Of These Days
12. After You've Gone
13. I Only Have Eyes For You
14. I Wish I Were Twins
15. Hands Across The Table
16. Blue Moon
17. Avalon
18. What A Difference A Day Made
19. Star Dust
20. Chicago
21. Meditation
22. What Harlem Is To Me
23. Netcha's Dream
24. Love Cries
25. Sorrow
26. Tigar Rag

Disc: 4
1. It May Not Be True
2. I Wanna Go Back To Harlem
3. Consolation
4. A Strange Fact
5. Original Dixieland One-Step
6. Smiles
7. Something Is Going To Give Me Away
8. Honeysuckle Rose
9. Crazy Rhythm
10. Out Of Nowhere
11. Sweet Georgia Brown
12. Lamentation
13. Devotion
14. Somebody Loves Me
15. Mighty Like The Blues
16. Pardon Me, Pretty Baby
17. My Buddy
18. Star Dust
19. Well All Right Then
20. Blues Evermore
21. Dear Old Southland
22. 'Way Down
23. I Know That You Know
24. When Buddha Smiles
25. Swinging In The Groove
26. The Darktown Strutter's Ball
27. My Melancholy Baby


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