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The Essential Sides 1929-1939 Box set, Original recording remastered
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The Essential Sides Remastered 1934-1936
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This 104 track, 4CD set charts the course of Coleman Hawkins' career between 1929 and the end of his European sojourn just before the Second World War. In this time he played with, among others, Henry Allen, Benny Carter, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt and Benny Goodman and became the acknowledged master of the tenor sax. JSP has taken care to work from good original sources, and the collections of John R.T. Davies, Charlie Crump and Ron Geesin have been heavily drawn upon. Even the problematical 1936 Swiss session with The Berries is here, thanks to the good offices of Dan Morgenstern of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutger's University.
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The disks work their way through the next decade, with McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Mound City Blowers, Henry Allen All Stars, Benny Carter's Orchestra, and other small goups headed by Hawkins. The Jack Purvis Band swings harder than most of the more famous swing bands that followed. The latter disks feature tracks from his European stay where he plays with some English, French and Dutch jazz bands which seem to be playing their hearts out in honor of Coleman (and, it seems to me, there's exceptional good cheer in Hawk's playing in response). Throughout the disks, one great solo is followed by another, often better. We watch the development of the Hawk as he lays down the vocabulary that was the foundation for most tenor sax men to follow. Not to mention the flawless, rich tone and exciting raw power that characterized his earlier years. This is music that excites in a way that will startle those who only know Hawkins from his later ballad and standard dominated work.
This must have been a true labor of love for Ted Kendall (acolyte of the famed John R.T. Davies). He did a flat out AMAZING job of remastering from the 78's. Even the 1929 sides sound like they were recorded in the fifties. You can distinguish the individual instruments quite clearly, the horns have that snap that goes missing when Kendall's lessers carelessly apply noise reduction. Yet, except for a couple of the European tracks, there is but a faint hint of hiss, and NO pops or tics.
Despite their being over 100 tunes, collected over a mere 10 year span, there are no out-takes, alternates, or other redundancies. And they are all highly listenable at worst to jaw-dropping at best. Kendall did not just round 'em up and slap 'em down (like some European jazz collections who shall remain nameless, Proper Box), he clearly chose with a golden ear what to include. He produced a set of CD's that are highly listenable all the way through, every time.
If you have the good fortune to own the Charlie Parker box set from JSP, you already know that they adhere to the highest of standards. And I like that each disk is safely esconced in it's own full sized jewel box, with each containing a sheet giving full musical lineups, recording dates, and a succinct but informative little essay relating to the tracks on the individual disk. Speaking of the JSP Parker set, I note that it is no longer available on Amazon. If I were you, I would snag this set now lest it too should disappear.
I've heard it rumored that Ted is working on another Hawkins box set covering the next decade. Hope the sales of this one encourages that.
THIS MUSIC ROCKS MORE THAN ROCK DOES!
If you can afford it, there is now a Mosaic Records boxed set that is a quantum improvement in remastering even over this JSP set. Ted Kendall now is working with Mosaic, so we probably won't see that second JSP Hawkins set.
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