While Hawkins represents the beginnings and one of the summits of jazz tenor saxophone, Frank Wess slips in the back door as one of the finest of the many second-generation players coming out of both Bean and Lester Young's lineage. Taking off from his groundbreaking work with Fletcher Henderson in the '20s and his pinnacle "Body and Soul" solo from 1939, Hawkins spent a good deal of the '40s rubbing shoulders with bebop youngsters and forward-looking swing players on a variety of small-combo recordings; he is heard here on a few such dates from 1940 and 1943. Teaming up with stellar big-band contemporaries like trumpeter Roy Eldridge, alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and drummer Sid Catlett, among others, Hawkins is in fine form on a mix of ballads and swingers for the 1940 session. Three years later, Hawkins joins up with such heavy hitters as Cootie Williams, Art Tatum, and Oscar Pettiford for four more loose combo tracks. Wess takes things in a more rarefied and formal direction on his five tracks. Cut at two sessions in 1954, the numbers are a mix of airy swingers and glowing ballads. Wess shows off his Prez-inspired tone and phrasing on fine originals like "Wess Point" and "Basie Ain't Here." Helping him out are trumpeter Joe Wilder and trombonist Benny Powell. A fine set.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook