Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ; January 8, 1960.
Ostensibly a jam session with ABA head-solos-tail formatting, Hawkins proves again and again why his sound is not only the epitome of jazz, but forever timeless. Trumpeter Joe Thomas and trombonist Vic Dickenson are by no means showboats, and they cannot steal the spotlight from Bean. But Tommy Flanagan threatens to on occasion, as he asserts himself on solos with a fervor that goes beyond Hawkins. Bubbling under all this virtuosity, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Osie Johnson do their swinging thing with open ears and instruments always at the ready to fire. They start with "You Blew Out the Flame In My Heart," and it seems a bit of a breeze for these jazz experts. Hawkins plays the melody by himself the first time through, then Thomas and Dickenson join in on invitation. The deep blue, slightly vibratoed, soulful resonance of the leader is unmistakable as always, and Flanagan is his usual tasteful and precise self. They switch up on the end melody, with the brass fronting the line while Hawkins improvises, then takes back the tuneful departing chorus. Johnson wrote "More Bounce to the Vonce," a peppy gospel-soul tune reminiscent of "Travel On." Flanagan is featured with no horns, then they join with phrases similar to "Lil' Liza Jane." All save bass and drums get a solo over nine minutes. Hawkins leads the melody of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" with staccato brass punctuations of harmony, and Dickenson's solo displaying that he not only plays notes, but also embodies pure rhythmic swing. The easy swing of "Cool Blue" has growling trombone, squeaky-clean trumpet and moaning tenor. Thomas and the underappreciated Emmett Berry are good case studies for comparison; here Thomas exemplifes the virtue of unrushed construction of a solo. Hawkins and Johnson claim co-writing credit on the 12-minute-plus "Some Stretching," a good old soulfully swinging jam over just a couple of tonal notes. The trio uses double stops for Swing Ville (2005)
Hawkins' leadoff solo, and then he digs in for an elongated full count extended by numerous not-so-foul tips. Hanging with every pitch and waiting in the wings is Flanagan, whose masterful pianistics are worth the wait while the others hit singles. It's Flanagan who delivers the grand salami. The demonstrative yet subtle Hawkins is in full flight here, with the equally elegant Thomas and naturally subdued Dickenson in lock step. What a joy they must have been to hear together at a club or concert date, if in fact it happened in this small-group setting.
All Music Guide
There was once a point about ten years ago, when Coleman Hawkins seemed on the verge of being swallowed Dp. A&R men were recording more and more of the younger jazzmen, and Hawk had only an occasional dale. Those in charge of recording then failed to realize that Hawk was pacing himself every step of the way, maintaining his development with the developments that were taking place in jazz. On most of his recent appearances, he has ably demonstrated that he is still the boss, and able to work well within any framework. He has done this for a good many years now, ever since his years with what was once the greatest of all jazz bands: Fletcher Henderson's.
Hawk has always been thoroughly conversant with all styles of music and had studied music as a child. He is from Missouri, St. Joseph to be exact, and had nearly completed his college education at Washburn in Topeka, but his education was interrupted loo often by demands made for his services on tenor saxophone. First it was Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, who toured coast to coast. Trumpeter Joe Smith was in the band and Hawk was just in his teens then. He evinced an early business acumen by refusing to go out on stage a few years later at the Club Alabam in New York to blow behind Edith Wilson. It wasn't that he objected to doing it, but he wanted to get paid for it. It was the upshot of this situation that led the then newly-organized Fletcher Henderson band to be fired from the Alabam and to be booked, at belter pay in Roseland, where they began their long run. He stayed with Fletcher for better than a decade, moving from a somewhat clumsy but forceful soloist, to the highly skilled artist who became the top man on his instrument throughout the world.
In those days he was being challenged constantly by newcomers, but there were only a handful who could offer any sort of ability to match his. They were Prince Robinson, one of the stars of McKinney's Cotton Pickers; and a little later, Greeley Walton of me Luis Russell band. The sessions held between those three at Mexico's after-hours club in Harlem during the late Twenties are still remembered by veteran observers then on the scene. Out of town there was Albert "Happy" Cauldwell in Chicago, and Stomp Evans, who died in 1929; David Jones from New Orleans who played in New York with the Cotton Club Orchestra; and Hayes Pillars with Alphonso Trent.
New challengers started coming out of the woods by the carload as the 1930s wore on. Bob Carroll with Horace Henderson and Don Redman; Elmer Williams and Chick Webb; Ben Webster with Bennie Moten; Budd Johnson with George E.Lee; Lester Young with the Blue Devils; Herschel Evans with Moten; Dick Wilson with Gene Coy; Chick Franklin with Johnson's Crackerjacks. There were also Bud Freeman and Babe Russin who were making names for themselves then as well.
With all these men evolving styles from Hawk's early mastery of his horn, the others like Lester Young and Budd Johnson who took their inspiration in part from the light alto sound of Frankie Trumbauer, another Missouri soloist, Hawk had his work cut out for him. In record after record, he continued to improve. He was also an excellent arranger and composer, although he was often too involved with other things to work on this end of his ability. He did in 1933 write and arrange "Queer Notions," which the Henderson band recorded twice that year. It made extensive use of augmented chords, was considered quite advanced for that era. The following year he decided to go to England for a brief visit and is said to have sent a telegram to Jack Hylton, the foremost English bandleader of the day, telling him he wanted to work in England. Hylton hired him for better than $150 a week, the salary that he was being paid by Henderson. He stayed in England with the band directed by Hylton's wife, an indifferent affair, before going to me Continent to work with various groups, including the famed Dutch Ramblers. By 1937 he found another American pianist Freddie Johnson, who had been in Europe since the early Thirties, and they teamed up with a Dutch drummer. He made many records in Europe with various bands, and occasionally sent some of them back home for the hoys to listen to.
Evidently, some of the records he sent to the States weren't quite up to what he had been doing with Henderson, or at least his fledgling competitors, led by Chu Berry, and gradually including Ben Webster (who with Dick Wilson, Lester Young, and Herschel Evans were the only ones ever to witness a time when Hawk was cut at a jam session, in Kansas City late in 1933), Julian Dash, Don Byas, Cecil Scott, Lester Young, and others, thought. They couldn't wait to unseat him from his throne when he returned to the States in 1939, as war became a reality in Europe. At the jam session in Monroe's, he showed what he had not been putting on records, and washed all his challengers out.
On me strength of his reputation he formed his own band, first of eight pieces, at Kelly's Stables on 51st Street, and then recorded "Body and Soul," destined to be, above all his other records, the one most likely to be remembered. He didn't regard it as such then, but merely as a filler late at night when the place he played in began to empty out. The record drew surprisingly bad reviews in the musical press at the time, but musicians knew better, and word got around that a new masterpiece had been recorded.
He enlarged his band and featured trumpeter Joe Guy, who had been active since he was sixteen, at Monroe's. By 1940 he was following Dizzy Gillespie's lead out of Roy Eldridge's style, and playing inter-esdng and advanced trumpet. His band was good, it made a few records, and died within a year.
He men cut down to combo size and began working regularly on Swing Street, as 52nd Street was known then. He began using musicians like Thelonious Monk, Little Benny Harris, Dizzy Gillespie, Denzil Best, and Oscar Pettiford in his band, and cut the first record date in 1944 with Dizzy, Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford, and the late Clyde Hart, another one of few figures from the earlier era who could play enough to please the new innovators. Budd Johnson, who played alto and baritone on the date, helped set it up. Monk made his first commercial record with Hawk that fall, and the following spring, his band at Billy Berg's in Hollywood consisted of Howard McGhee. Sir Charles Thompson, Pettiford, and Denzil Best, He played and recorded with most of the major figures of the newer jazz form, and was at home with them, as they were with him. Between 1946 and 1948, Fats Navarro, J.J. Johnson, Miles Davis, Curley Russell. Allen Eager, and Kai Winding all recorded with him, and he made a monumental unaccompanied improvisation called "Picasso" in 1948, which has long been out of print.
He's never changed his basic style except to add little bits or pieces he hears played by some of the younger musicians he favored like Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. For a long time in 1959, he and Roy Eldridge had a quintet at the Metropole which was a high spot of music in the midtown area, and many a younger musician stopped by to listen, and to learn.
The other men in the front line are all old friends. Trumpeter Joe Thomas, who doesn't work nearly as often as he'd like to, is a Missourian, born in Webster Grove, a suburb of St. Louis where he grew up and studied music. He worked with a famous territory band known as Eli Rice's Cottonpickers in the late Twenties. Rice was a powerful vocalist, and Eddie Tompkins was one of his section mates on trumpet, and they had a fine girl pianist named Victoria Raymore, now Mrs. Everett Barksdale. They were very popular throughout Milwaukee and Minneapolis and other parts of the country, but never recorded.
After playing with other territory bands in the midwest, he came East to play a walkathon in Camden, New: Jersey. The band led by another St. Louis musician, pianist Ira Coffey, and drummer Harry Dial helped him get the job. From there he came to New York where he soon joined Fletcher's band, just in lime for Hawk's last record date in 1934 before going overseas. He took solos on "Tidal Wave" and "Hocus Pocus," and also recorded later with Alex Hill.
He stayed with Fletcher through 1936, although Roy Eldridge became the featured soloist Then he played and recorded with Lil Armstrong and Benny Carter and freelanced with dozens of combos around New York, and was in demand for many record dates during the Forties. He's been taking gigs where he can find them since then, and his Louis-inspired horn, with its fine tone, is always a pleasure to hear.
The other front-line soloist is Vic Dickenson, the plunger mute trombone specialist. Vic was born in Xenia, Ohio and started with the fine territory band led by drummer Speed Webb in Indianapolis (Roy Eldridge, his brother Joe, Teddy, and Gus Wilson were all members of the band men) during the late Twenties. Then he worked with Zack Whyte (Sy Oliver, Al Sears, Herman Chittison) in Cincinnati; Thamon Hayes in Kansas City (Baby Lovett, Jesse Stone, Ed Lewis, the Walder brothers); and came East with Blanche Calloway's Joy Boys in 1931. He made his record debut with her, as did Ben Webster and Clyde Hart among others. Cab's equally dynamic sister had a big following around the middle Atlantic states and operated out of Philadelphia with home base in the Pearl Theater. Vic stayed with the band until 1939 when the band broke up temporarily and then joined Benny Carter, followed by Count Basic, and then a series of smaller combos led by Frankie Newton. Hot Lips Page, Sidney Bechet, and by 1943 Eddie Heywood. He stayed with Heywood through 1945, and has since then been freelancing throughout New England, the midwest, and New York, appearing in jam sessions and taking whatever jobs he can find. He works almost always with the mute and rubber plunger and has a straight-ahead serio-comic style that gasses listeners of every persuasion.
Pianist Tommy Flanagan's work is pretty well-known to Prestige buyers. He comes from Detroit and has a solid, blues-based style which is at home with any group. He recorded with his own trio (Prestige 7134), and with Miles Davis (7044) and Sonny Rollins (7079).
Wendell Marshall and Osie Johnson are a superb rhythm team, highlighting the soloists, and Osie contributes "More Bounce to the Vonce" for this date. They are regulars at Prestige. "You Blew Out the Flame" is a rarely heard and good pop tune of not long ago, and Duke's "I'm Beginning to See me Light" is another of his later standards which deserves replaying. Joe Thomas, after some rough starts on the first side, settles down into a good groove on "Cool Blue." The arrangements are "heads" put together in an engaging way as all experienced jazz musicians have done for many generations. Hawk is definitely the leader here, as he has always been. His forceful and yet humorous personality dominates Vic's subtle muted byplay and Joe's delicate and plaintive tone. Tommy Flanagan supports the solos with high articulation, and the rhythm section moves everyone ahead with fluency.
As long as he wants to, Hawk will continue to lead the pack, for he is one of all too few musicians of every generation who listens and digests what his contemporaries are doing. Prestige rightfully presents him in a series of varied showcases, designed to highlight the many facets of his ability.
FRANK DRIGGS (These notes appeared on the original album liner.)