Coleman Hawkins

The Best of Coleman Hawkins

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Best Of, of course, is just a marketing slogan, for this roundup of late-period Bean only covers a less-than-four-year patch in a career that spanned five decades. It does, however, provide a useful survey of a time in which Hawkins was recording prolifically for Prestige and its Swingville and Moodsville subsidiaries. Hawkins was then in his mid-'50s, his matchless tone still in prime smoky form, his harmonic ideas pretty much set after decades of keeping an open ear and mind, but still willing to investigate the latest trends and developments. While a snappy, hard-swinging "I'm Beginning to See the Light" leads off the survey, and another romping slice of Ellingtonia, "In a Mellotone," turns up later, these tracks are anomalies, for the majority of the tunes are relaxed, laid-back blowing sessions where Bean's tenor sprawls comfortably as if from an easy chair. One reason for "Mellotone's" relative fire, no doubt, is the spirited competition that Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis provides; their trading of fours near the close rouses Hawkins to offer some gritty rejoinders. Though not known as a bluesman per se, Hawkins still does an agreeable job with the soul-jazz "Soul Blues" that, alas, starts to run out of steam before its nearly ten-minute length is consumed. While at times one can question the reasoning behind what is "best" -- "Greensleeves," for example, is mostly a bore -- Bean's majestic personality still makes an indelible impression in this selection.

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