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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster

Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55434



1.Blues For Yolande
2. It Never Entered My Mind
3. La Rosita
4. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
5. Prisoner Of Love
6. Tangerine
7. Shine On, Harvest Moon
8. Maria
9. Cocktails For Two
10. Blues For Yolande (mono version)
11. La Rosita (short alternate version)
12. Shine On, Harvest Moon (short alternate version)
13. My Melancholy Baby
14. Where Are You
15. Ill Wind
16. Ill Wind
17. Blues For Yolande (incomplete takes)

Coleman Hawkins - Tenor sax (tracks 1-13, 15, 17)
Ben Webster - Tenor sax (tracks 1-12, 14, 16, 17)
Oscar Peterson - Piano
Herb Ellis - Guitar
Ray Brown - Bass
Alvin Stoller - Drums (tracks 1-13, 15, 17)
Stan Levey - Drums (tracks 14, 16)


Coleman Hawkins was perhaps the first musician to make the tenor saxophone really sing, and one of the greatest men to follow in his footsteps was Ben Webster. So it is a treat to hear the two men together on this new CD which contains the complete sessions they recorded on 16 October 1957. Both men used the hybrid nature of their instrument (Adolphe Sax's cross between a brass instrument and a reed instrument) to produce delicate as well as roistering music.

On this album, delicacy predominates - since both players had become mellower over the years (Hawkins was in his fifties and Webster was in his late forties). Yet their styles were still distinctive enough for any listener to be able to distinguish between them. Hawkins is the more forceful and rounded, as you can hear in the opening Blues for Yolande, while Webster had by now matured his sound into a gentler, breathy, rather deeper tone which caressed persuasively.

Coleman Hawkins' fluency is remarkable: still able to produce strings of notes which, in a way, anticipated the "sheets of sound" for which John Coltrane later became famous. Ben Webster seems to choose his notes more sparingly, but both men's styles are a delight to hear - I almost said "to wallow in", as the experience is so pleasurable. You can compare their sounds on the two versions of Ill Wind here: the first by Hawkins, the second by Webster - the latter characteristically slower than the former.

But most tracks have the two men playing side by side. Just sample the way they work together in the first take of La Rosita. Hawkins starts the solos, backed by some nice Latinate drumming from Alvin Stoller; then the two saxists blend in perfect harmony before the tempo changes to a swinging four-four for Webster's solo.

As both saxophonists were under contract to Norman Granz, the rhythm section is Granz's favourite Oscar Peterson Trio with the addition of drummer Alvin Stoller (Stan Levey plays drums behind Ben Webster on a couple of the bonus tracks). Oscar Peterson's brilliance as an accompanist is evident on such tracks as the Hawkins version of Ill Wind, with melodic punctuations leading into each chord change. Oscar tends to be less florid when Ben Webster plays the same tune, leaving us to savour that seductive tone, which is also alluring on such tracks as Where Are You.

To clarify the discography: the original LP contained only the first seven tracks. The other tracks are added from the same session, but tracks 13 to 16 (two from Hawkins, two from Webster) come from the albums The Genius of Coleman Hawkins and Soulville, recorded on the previous day. The incomplete takes of Blues for Yolande tacked on at the end illustrate the difficulties that can beset a recording session. But we can be very grateful that this session took place at all.

Tony Augarde

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