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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Coleman Hawkins With Billy Byers And His Orchestra

Coleman Hawkins tenor saxophone, with Billy Byers arranger, and his orchestra. Tracks 1 - 4, 7 - 10 and 13 - 21 concert orchestra including strings. Tracks 5,6,11 and 12 big band line up. All tracks recorded at Webster Hall NYC. January 17,18 and 20 1956.
Bluebird First Editions 09026-63842-2

Crotchet midprice 

1. Body And Soul
2. Little Girl Blue
3. I Never Knew
4. Dinner For One Please, James
5. The Bean Stalks Again
6. His Very Own Blues
7. The Day You Came Along
8. Have You Met Miss Jones?
9. The Essence Of You
10. There Will Never Be Another You
11. I'm Shooting High
12. Bean And The Boys ( issued as 39"-25"-39" )
ALTERNATE TAKES (previously unissued)
13. There Will Never Be Another You
14. There Will Never Be Another You
15. Little Girl Blue
16. Dinner For One Please, James
17. I Never Knew
18. Have You Met Miss Jones?
19. Have You Met Miss Jones?
20. Have You Met Miss Jones?
21. The Day You Came Along.

This is yet another re-release of a Coleman Hawkins session from the 1950's. I was unfamiliar with this particular recording but must say at once that it is an absolute treasure, comparing most favourably with such similar dates as "The Hawk In Paris". Interestingly enough these two "with strings" albums were made within months of each other.

Hawkins is at his majestic best throughout this disc. He obviously relished the idea of playing with a larger ensemble and is encouraged by this to produce some of his most imaginative improvisations. As on the "Paris" session the orchestra and soloist are used in a complementary fashion - often one answers the other. Perhaps this use of space added to the opulence of the arrangements was a contributory factor to the high level of inspiration found in Hawk's solos on this record. The orchestrations themselves are highly dramatic and often recall the style of Hollywood film scores of this era. There can be few settings as well suited to the regal saxophone offerings of Hawkins than the ones found here.

The choice of repertoire is excellent - eight top notch standards ( including some that are lesser known ) and four first-rate Hawkins originals. ( Hawkins like Johnny Griffin in later years was a most effective composer of both swinging style tunes and ballads - it is an interesting comparison as they both are such structured players and so completely in control of their performances.) " Body And Soul " is in my opinion, just as interesting as the classic 1939 version. In most aspects it is very different but Hawkins quotes freely from his earlier solo and produces a stunning cadenza. " Little Girl Blue " is a particular favourite of mine and here receives a most sympathetic rendition. " Dinner For One Please, James " is one of those sophisticated songs normally associated with Noel Coward or Cole Porter ( my only other experience of it being on a J.J.Johnson record ) and it is played here in a very sensitive but almost nonchalant style. " The Day You Came Along " was quite a famous ( early 30's ) Hawkins recording . Here it is much lighter in its reading as well as being slightly faster and pitched in a higher register on the saxophone. " 39" - 25" - 39" " is, in fact, "Bean And The Boys" and is a pleasant illustration how tastes have changed over the years! All of the alternate takes are well worth their inclusion.

This is a superb release and must rank amongst the best of Coleman Hawkins. High praise indeed !

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.



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