Coleman Hawkins – Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra – Crown Records CLP5181 (1960)/ Pure Pleasure PPAN CLP5181, 180gm mono audiophile LP ****:
(Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Thad Jones, trumpet; Eddie Costa, piano, vibes; George Duvivier, bass; Osie Johnson, drums)
Crown Records did not have the best reputation as a record label. It was a budget label of the Bihari brothers, who also had the Modern and RPM labels, before they merged them into Crown. Crown became their “budget” label, and had a hodgepodge of musical genres, including early rock and roll, and jazz, but also an assortment of cheesy “knock-off” material from band sidemen of well known bands. Crown was also known for having little to no liner notes as well as low quality artwork on their covers. Calling this 1960 date Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra, when it was a quintet date only, fits right into that pattern.
However, luckily for us today, all that should be ignored when considering purchase of this mono audiophile issue. The orchestra/quintet was made up of an “A” level group of musicians as noted above. Next is the fact that PurePleasure in their re-issues goes first cabin in re-mastering by using only the best engineers. Here we have Ray Staff at the helm using the facilities of Air Mastering of Lyndhurst Hall in London.
Coleman Hawkins was 56 years old when this session was made, and clearly in his prime. This was his “debut” for the label . A cursory review of his discography shows recordings for another budget label, Brunswick, and also many recordings for major labels, Impulse, RCA, OJC, Pablo, and Verve- but this was likely a single experience for Bean and Crown Records.
This date has only five tracks, with “Bean in Orbit,” “After Midnight,” and “Moodsville,” being the most well known. At the time of this recording all of his sidemen were major players, so no corners were cut here.
“Bean in Orbit” has Hawk and Thad Jones trading lines, with comping by Eddie Costa, before Thad Jones has several choruses. Though recorded a little distant in the mix, remastering reveals Thad’s warm lyrical tone in full form before Coleman steps up with an effortless mix of ideas, blowing with just an edge of bop meets mainstream. Costa is recorded with nice clarity, as is Duvivier, with his steady beat. “After Midnight” is a tour de force ballad for Hawk, with his smoky timbre setting the proper mood for the late night ruminating that the song’s title brings to mind. Jones’ solo here continues in the same vein. Ray Staff’s skill is felt as well as the acoustics on this track are first rate, much better than are typically found on a budget issue.
“Hassle” brings to mind a city traffic scene as the quintet’s blend expresses hustle bustle. Osie Johnson does some of his best work here, and George Duvivier sets the tune’s pulse like a fine jeweled watch. Eddie Costa’s vibes are front and center setting a dreamy section mid tune.
Side B has only two extended tunes, “Moodsville” and “Stalking.” The former is a swinger with gospel overtones and became a mainstay in Hawkin’s repertoire. It merged swing with hard bop flavors. The group gets to stretch out and Hawkins is clearly in charge. Eddie Costa seems inspired in his solo, and Duvivier gets uninterrupted space before the horns take the tune out. “Stalking” has a movie soundtrack theme, which would have been at home in a detective potboiler. Hawkins sets a feeling of intrigue that the song’s title indicates.
Hawkins’ “orchestra,” though a misnomer, in remixed splendor comes highly recommended. Though it may not be high definition, it certainly is glorious hi-fi.
Side A: Bean in Orbit, After Midnight, Hassle
Side B: Moodsville, Stalking
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