Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk – RCA/ Pure Pleasure PPAN LPM2712 – 1963 – Mono 180 gm vinyl *****:
(Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Paul Bley, piano; Roy McCurdy, drums; Henry Grimes, bass on A3, B1 & B3; Bob Cranshaw, bass on A1, A2, and B2)
Since the 1963 recording of Sonny Meets Hawk was an old school meeting between the modern jazz tenor giant, and the pre-bop father of the jazz tenor, Pure Pleasure Records on their audiophile LP edition decided to stay old school. They are issuing a remastered mono version instead of stereo, as well as sticking to the original six tracks featuring Sonny and Coleman, and not including the additional three tracks included on the stereo CD issue on RCA. Those tracks had Don Cherry on trumpet taking the place of Hawk.
Except for a brief appearance together at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival, the July 1963 session was the first time these two jazz legends had ever played together. The RCA stereo issue had Hawkins on the left channel and Rollins on the right channel during duo passages. The mono issue, however, will keep listeners on their toes.
“Yesterdays” is notable for the Hawkins’ fast phrasing on the third chorus, and Sonny’s higher register response. It is usually easy to pick out each horn as Hawkins playing is vibrato heavy. Coleman has lead on “All the Things You Are” and Rollins plays a counter melody. You can sense the fun they had together, not participating in a “cutting contest” but rather playing off each other and being on their “A” game – the youngster holding his own with the master. Paul Bley, on piano, is a fine choice, as he can play in or out, comping, or being creative when soloing. On “All the Things” he has an extended solo showing his talents.
One thing is quite clear on this audiophile LP is that it is among the finest issues for fidelity of any recent Pure Pleasure LP. The horns are truly sharp and crystal clear. It’s as if these two titans are playing a private concert for you, each showing you their mastery of the tenor. When they blend their horns it is simply astounding.
On “Summertime” Sonny hints at the melody in his opening statement, followed by Hawk’s passionate response. Henry Grimes’ solo on this track is assertive, and as intense as the two tenors. “Just Friends” finds Rollins and Hawkins in a bit of push and pull as they each take command at different times before playing under and over each other. “Lover Man” is one of the highlights of their meeting as a little gun slinging goes until Hawk restates the theme before the final chorus.
Any serious jazz tenor sax fan, owes themselves a listen to this momentous meeting between Sonny and the Hawk in glorious remastered audiophile mono. It’s Ali vs. Frazier, with each retaining their championship belts.
Side A: Yesterdays, All the Things You Are, Summertime
Side B: Just Friends, Lover Man, At McKie’s
— Jeff Krow