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Coleman Hawkins encounters Ben Webster [TrackList follows] – Analogue Productions/ Universal Music

Coleman Hawkins encounters Ben Webster [TrackList follows] – Analogue Productions/Universal Music stereo-only SACD CVRI 6066 SA (4/4/14) ****:

(Coleman Hawkins & Ben webster, tenor sax; Alvin Stoller, drums; Oscar Peterson, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass)

It may seem odd at first that Hawkins and Webster did more than one album together, since they are both known for the unusually big sound on the tenor sax and in fact Webster’s model was Hawkins when he was starting out. However, close listening to the seven tracks of this album will give the listener more of an idea of the unique qualities each great musician had. Personally I’ve always preferred Webster for his rich and enveloping tone. Hawkins usually takes the first solo on each track except for “It Never Entered My Mind,” and “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” Both saxists seem to do their solos from dead center between the left and right speakers.

It’s a bit surprising that neither Oscar Peterson nor guitar Ellis are given opportunity for long solos on this album, though Peterson does get a good short one on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.”  But there’s also no drum solos, which is fine with me. The final track: “Shine On Harvest Moon,” is an absolute gem, with both saxists shining strongly. There’s no honking here; both saxists are completely lyrical and sensitive in their playing. The session was recorded in stereo in 1957; Verve thinking ahead since the stereodisc didn’t come out until the following year.

This may be the first SACD reissue of the session, but there have been several vinyl reissues.  I have a Verve vinyl LP which may or may not have come from Classic Records, but it is no longer on their web site. There have been reissues of it on vinyl by others, and Analogue Productions itself has a 45 rpm double-disc vinyl edition of the same for $50.

I did a comparison between this SACD and the Classic Records or Verve reissue. The first thing I discovered is that the channels were reversed, so I reversed the channels on my phono preamp to match up. They sounded about identical, but the right channel sounded totally different on the two formats. I pinned down that George Marino, the remastering engineer at Sterling Sound, had greatly increased the high end on the channel with the drums, resulting in a very strong cymbal and high-hat sound in comparison with the vinyl. Not having the drums so loud puts more attention on the two saxists. I also heard clearly that the vinyl had much more bass end than the SACD format—one can really hear the outstanding bass lines from Ray Brown. Since Marino also did the 45 rpm reissue, that surely also has the reversed channels, goosed-up drums channel and lack of bass. Perhaps Classic just increased the bass EQ and Analogue had the drums channel treble increased, who knows?

TrackList:

Blues for Ylande, It Never Entered My Mind, Rosita, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Prison of Love, Tangerine, Shine On Harvest Moon.

—John Henry

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