Coleman Hawkins

The Complete Coleman Hawkins on Keynote

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Subtitled "The Complete Coleman Hawkins," the 61 songs on these four CDs represent Hawkins' complete output for Keynote Records recorded between January and December of 1944 with Teddy Wilson and Earl Hines as part of the Coleman Hawkins Quintet, the Cozy Cole All-Stars, Coleman Hawkins and His Sax Ensemble and the All-American Four, Charlie Shavers' All American Five, and George Wettling's New Yorkers -- Hawkins and Wettling's first contact went back close to 20 years, to the Roseland Ballroom. At the time, Hawkins had given up trying to make it as the leader of a big band, and had returned to playing with small groups in the clubs along New York's 52nd Street. A joint project of PolyGram and Nippon Phonogram of Japan, this set is loaded with previously unissued takes and tracks from Hawkins' Keynote library, which also features Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge and Billy Taylor. From the opening bars of two different previously unissued takes of "I Only Have Eyes For You," the set shows its worth, presenting outtakes that are equal in value to any of their released counterparts -- Wilson and Hawkins perform superbly on all three versions, with markedly different performances on each, pretty much representing the way all of the outtakes here are fully justified. Each disc has more than its share of worthwhile rarities and previously unreleased cuts, and one leads into the next so well that it is difficult to take in just one of the these four discs at a time. From Disc Two onward, there is also more improvisation than one is accustomed to in jazz recordings if this era, owing to the fact that many of the sessions used the 12-inch master disc format, which allowed for just over five minutes' playing time, nearly 60% more than the usual three minutes-and-change, giving all of the players a chance to stretch out in ways closer to their usual stage and radio performances (though I wouldn't change the various three-minute versions of "Bean at the Met" on Disc One for any amount of money). The sound is generally superb, with an intimate, live-in-the-studio ambience and very little in the way of noise, considering the age of the recordings (no enhanced noise reduction of any kind has been used on this set).

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