This double-record set was part of a whole series of two-fers that this steadily growing conglomerate of jazz labels began pumping out in the '70s. Among jazz fans it is usually identified as "the one with Coleman Hawkins blowing a bunch of smoke out of his nose," and indeed the gatefold cover is lavishly decorated with just such a color photograph. Unlike many of the other sets issued by Fantasy in its umbrella-encompassing Riverside and Milestone, this was more of an elaborately conceived collection of material, even drawing in a few tunes off 78s as well as a track off of a Thelonious Monk album. Most of the two-fers simply combined two previously separate albums, and do not have the large span stylistically that this one does. The swing-happy Hawkins begins in the mid-'40s with what was the studio recording debut of jazz archangel Thelonious Monk, and the relationship between these generations of jazz players is instructive not only in that it reveals Hawkins' flexibility and modernistic tendencies, but the rock-solid roots richness of Monk. The inclusion of a last track from a 1957 Monk date simply underscores this, and is a nice programming touch despite the fact that Monk's piano playing on "Ruby My Dear" makes the memory of everything before it vanish into thin air. This is said despite the high quality of the tracks, featuring some killer players such as trumpeter Fats Navarro. All in all a pretty rich helping of Hawkins material with a broad stylistic range, and definitely worth rescuing from a used-record pile.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne