The Hawks Flies High: COLEMAN HAWKINS
with J. J. JOHNSON, IDREES SULIEMAN, HANK JONES
Idrees Sulieman (tp) J. J. Johnson (tb) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Hank Jones (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Oscar Pettiford (b) Jo Jones (drs) New York; March 12 and 15, 1957
1. Chant (5:03) (H. Jones – Hawkins)
2. Juicy Fruit (11:14) (Sulieman – Hawkins)
3. Think Deep (3:22) (Smith – Hawkins)
1. Laura (4:31) (Mercer – Baksin)
2. Blue Lights (5:42) (Gigi Gryce)
3. Sancticity (9:10) (Coleman Hawkins)
In the beginning, on tenor sax, there was COLEMAN HAWKINS and only Coleman Hawkins. Today, there are a great many talented voices to be heard on that instrument, but there is still The Hawk.
When he first reached stardom with Fletcher Henderson's band, in 1920s, "Bean" was the very first to create important jazz on the saxophone. His style and his sound was the dominant, all-pervading influence on a whole generation. In the late '30s, when New York's 52nd Street was "Swing Street," Hawkins was one of its key figures. In the '40s, when that same area became the first public proving ground for modern jazz, there he was, leading and encouraging younger musicians and playing as much as or more than any of them.
The full Hawkins story, told in his own words, can be heard on a unique two
LP Riverside album that is, in effect, a spoken autobiography in which he talks fully and frankly about the jazz and jazzmen of three decades: COLEMAN HAWKINS: A Documentary (RLP 12-117/18).
Few jazz fans, and even fewer musicians, are likely to forget this. But sometimes record companies manage to overlook fairly obvious eternal verities that are standing right in front of them. And so, strangely enough; it has been far too many years since the Hawk has been asked to put together for the public a straight ahead; swinging small band session like this one an album in which he makes the tenor sax come to life as no one ever did before him and as few have ever done so well; an album bursting with jazz that is both fully "modern" and remarkably timeless.
That's one reason why we found the making of this LP a source of great pleasure. For another, it's a rare treat to be able to walk up to a truly major jazz musician and say, in effect: "Why don't you pick out the men you'd most like to work with and let's cut a record." And, of course, to have him say: "Sure; let's go." Well, Hawkins is our idea of a truly major figure (hardly a unique idea on our part), and we walk up and asked him, and he did, and here it is...
It is singularly pointless to talk about jazz "schools" and narrowly defined styles when Hawkins is on the scene. Not only has his career spanned more than a few drastic stylistic shifts, but he has always remained at least abreast of, and more often ahead of, the trends and tides of jazz. Thus, in selecting the supporting east for this occasion, Bean cut across both school lines and levels of fame in typically untypical, and eminently sensible fashion:
J.J.JOHNSON is the often crowned and unquestioned king of modern trombonists. Polls are not always reliable indexes of talent, but when a man is consistently top-rated on his instrument, no matter whether the voters be fans, critics or musicians, the point is hard to miss.
IDREES SULIEMAN, on the other had, has never hit the big name level; but he was one of the early pillars of the bop movement, has long been recognized by fellow musicians, as a rich toned and inventive trumpet man, and was the Hawk's unhesitating choice for this LP.
HANK JONES, whom Leonard Feather has called "one of the best representatives of the modern school" of piano, is also a fairly 'inside' name; but he has proved over and over again on records that he is a brilliant soloist and surely one of the very best rhythm section men around.
BARRY GALBRAITH, who has chosen the comparative anonymity of radio and TV studio work during the pas decade, is an alumnus of the Claude Thornhill band, and an impeccable master of the guitar, so often missing from current jazz dates, was essential to the building of a really 'fat' rhythm sound for the horns to lean on, Galbraith was for him the obvious choice.
OSCAR PETTIFORD is certainly the first name to come to mind when bass is mentioned; one of the first and best of melodic bass soloists, he is also a swinging rock (to mix a metaphor) as a section man.
Finally, and last only because it is discographic custom to list drummers last, there is JOE JONES, for many years the anchor man of the most pulsating big band ever, Count Basie's, and equally firm and sensitive behind a smaller group like this one.
It is an unfortunately often proved fact that an "all star" collection does not automatically make a coherent unit. But these were, of course, by no means seven strangers who had to be introduced in the studio. These were seven experienced musicians who know and respect each other, and who clearly fitted immediately and superbly into the mood that was sought for, one that might best be described as rocking relaxation. Not bound in by tight arrangements, but truly loose by choice (not that falling-apart disorganization that is often miscalled "looseness"); with the self discipline, self-confidence and cohesiveness you'd have to get from such a lineup of thorough professional and the free flowing, uninhibited surge of robust jazz you can get when such men are enjoying an outing together.
Two of the numbers in particular were used for full scale, multi-chorus blowing, with no eyes on the studio clock: Juicy Fruit, a hard hitting blues; and the exhuberant Sancticity, a lively descendant of the old gospel song, Give Me That Old Time and Laura. The latter, the only standard on the LP, is entirely turned over to lengthy improvisations by Hawk and a briefer one by Jay Jay. Altogether this is full bodied jazz at its best. If it can be said to prove anything, it is that The Hawk, in the company of these friends, flies every bit as high as ever.
Outstanding modern jazz can be heard on such 12-inch HIGH FIDELITY Riverside LPs as –
Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK; with Sonny Rollins, Ernie Henry, Clark Terry (5 stars – Down Beat) (RLP12-226)
Thelonious Himself: solo piano by THELONIOUS MONK (RLP12-235)
Trigger Happy: TRIGGER ALPERT All-Stars; Tony Scott, Zoot Sims, Urbie Green, al Cohn, Joe Wilder, Ed Shaughnessy (RLP12-225)
Zoot!: The ZOOT SIMS Quintet (RLP12-228)
RANDY WESTON: Trio and Solo; with Art Blakey (RLP12-227)
GIGI GRYCE and the Jazz Lab Quintet; with Donald Byrd (RLP12-229)
Sultry Serenade: HERBIE MANN (RLP12-234)
CLARK TERRY Quintet: with Johnny Griffin (RLP12-237)
This Is New: KENNY DREW; with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley (RLP12-236)
A Grand Night for Swinging: MUNDELL LOWE; with Billy Taylor, Gene Quill (RLP12-238)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording Riverside Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Paul Weller (photography) and Paul Bacon (design)
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.