Much of the material on this two-LP set has been since reissued on CD, but, one way or the other, this music (particularly the first 16 tracks) belongs in every serious jazz collection. In 1939, Hawkins returned to the U.S. after five years in Europe, and it took him very little time to reassert his prior dominance as king of the tenors. This set starts off with the session that resulted in Hawk's classic version of "Body and Soul," teams him with Benny Carter (on trumpet) for some hot swing (including a memorable rendition of "My Blue Heaven"), and then finds Hawkins using younger musicians (including trumpeter Fats Navarro and trombonist J.J. Johnson) on some advanced bop originals highlighted by "Half Step Down Please." The remainder of this set is also good, but less historic, with Hawkins being well-showcased with three larger groups in 1956, culminating in a remake of "Body and Soul."
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow