Sonny Rollins & Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk – RCA (1963) /PurePleasure (2014) – vinyl

Sonny Rollins & Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk – RCA LPM-2712 (1963)/PurePleasure (2014) audiophile mono vinyl ****:

(Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins – tenor sax; Paul Bley – piano; Henry Grimes, and Bob Cranshaw {on “All the Things You Are” “Lover Man” and “Yesterdays” only} – bass; Roy McCurdy – drums)

When Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins recorded for the first time together, it was a momentous occasion in 1963. Sonny was considered the top modern tenor saxist at that time, and Coleman Hawkins was considered the “father” of tenor jazz saxophonists. (You probably wouldn’t get a major argument today from jazz historians as to this assertion). Sonny was known for his improvisation skills, Hawkins was a proud man, who bridged the period between swing and bop, leading to hard bop and the entry into post bop idioms. Never an artist, who was content to rest on his laurels, Hawkins never backed down from a challenge to his supremacy, Hawk recorded for another three years, and was fresh and vibrant to the end of his recording career. He passed away in 1969, six years after this recording. Luckily, we still have Rollins with us, even though his new recordings and concert appearances have been cut way back.

PurePleasure, purveyors of fine re-releases in vinyl, are out of England, and they continue to put out treasures from the past. They are also brave enough to put out this issue in mono, even though this recording from RCA was also released in stereo.

It can be a bit of a challenge to be certain of which artist is soloing, when listening in mono. (The stereo version has Hawkins on the left, and Rollins on the right). In mono, there are times without a trained musical ear, that each artist can sound like their counterpart. Luckily the liner notes by noted jazz producer, George Avakian, indicate the solo order on each track. (But you better listen closely, just in case the music alone demands all of your attention…)

“Yesterdays” begins with an introduction by Sonny, then Hawkins and Rollins, and later the two share leads with Rollins playing in a higher register than Hawk. Coleman surprises with some fast cadenza phrases, mid-track, clearly inspired by playing with Rollins. He is clearly on his “A” game.

“All the Things You Are” has the two champs (kind of sounds like Ali vs. Frazier…) trading choruses. Hawkins is mostly taking charge, with counter-melodies provided by Rollins. We also get treated to a piano solo by Paul Bley. It is interesting to hear early Bley, before he changed directions later in his career, as evidenced by his prolific period with ECM.

You could call “Summertime” a draw, as each saxophonist draws out the emotion of this classic standard. The somber tone by Rollins is appropriate for the mood the tune elicits.

Side Two opens with “Just Friends.” It has Rollins getting the most solo time in the first half of the track. After the bass solo from Henry Grimes, Rollins is identifiable in the duet choruses by his higher register blowing. It is a treat to hear the two blow in well remastered sound. There is a wide soundstage, and even in mono, the bass is well- balanced in the mix.

“Lover Man” was a staple for Coleman Hawkins throughout his career.  Here the two tenors share equally as this session was a true collaboration and not a “cutting session.” “At McKies” features Rollins, who both states the theme before a series of solo choruses, and later concludes after Paul Bley’s solo.

For both the jazz historical value, and the excellent acoustics between these two tenor titans, this vinyl re-issue by PurePleasure would make a nice addition to your LP collection.

TrackList:

Side One: Yesterdays, All the Things You Are, Summertime
Side Two: Just Friends, Lover Man, At McKies

—Jeff Krow

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