This reissue illustrates Hawkins' influence during the swing era by focusing on his work for Commodore in 1940 and 1943 as well as fellow tenor great Chu Berry's recordings for the same label in 1938 and 1941. (Berry certainly wasn't the only tenor man Hawkins influenced; his big, rugged tone had a direct or indirect influence on everyone from Illinois Jacquet, Ben Webster, and Willis Jackson to Sonny Rollins and Booker Ervin). Though Hawkins' influence on Berry is undeniable, Berry was quite recognizable himself -- and his individuality shines through on this CD. Berry swings aggressively on "Sittin' In" and "46 West 52" in 1938 and "Blowin' Up a Breeze" on August 28, 1941 (only two months before he died in a car crash), while his ballad-playing on "Stardust" and "Body and Soul" is gorgeous and unapologetically romantic. Some jazz historians feel that Berry could be overly sentimental on ballads, but to this journalist, his playing was a soulful, lyrical delight. (Besides, there's no law stating that jazz has to be 100% intellect 100% of the time). Meanwhile, the Hawkins material comes from all-star sessions that Leonard Feather produced or co-produced; the 1943 session boasts such heavyweights as trumpeter Cootie Williams and pianist Art Tatum, while the 1940 date, billed as "Coleman Hawkins and the Chocolate Dandies," and finds trumpeter Roy Eldridge and alto saxophonist/clarinetist Benny Carter joining Hawkins on the front line. Hawkins and Carter were both part of the original Chocolate Dandies sessions of 1929-1930, and their rapport was equally strong in 1940. From the forceful to the romantic, Tenor Giants paints an impressive picture of both Hawkins and Berry.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson