With cooperation from the Verve and Columbia Legacy catalogs, the Ken Burns Jazz series on CD individually spotlights the musical excellence of 22 jazz originators whose careers and influence are explored in Burns' PBS documentary Jazz. Coleman Hawkins created the voice of the tenor saxophone in jazz, maintaining an open mind throughout his career while playing an important part in the transition from swing to bebop. This compilation starts with Hawkins' early recordings as a member of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1926, and moves through "Picasso," "Body and Soul," and "The Man I Love," his solo triumphs in the '30s and '40s. The disc concludes with a number of Hawkins' companion dates in the late '50s and early '60s. Included are dates with Thelonious Monk (Hawkins gave Monk his first break on record, employing him when everyone else thought he was too weird), Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington, and Benny Carter, as well as Max Roach's powerful civil rights statement "Driva Man" from his We Insist date. While it's impossible to sum up the history of Coleman Hawkins on a single disc, the highlights here should make the listener interested enough to continue searching out more material. The Ken Burns Jazz series holds no new material for the aficionado.
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AllMusic Review by Al Campbell