From the mid-'50s until Coleman Hawkins's death in 1969, the tenor-saxophonist frequently teamed up with trumpeter Roy Eldridge to form a potent team. However, Hawkins rarely met altoist Johnny Hodges on the bandstand, making this encounter a special event. Long versions of "Satin Doll," "Perdido" and "The Rabbit in Jazz" give these three classic jazzmen (who are ably assisted by the Tommy Flanagan Trio) chances to stretch out and inspire each other. The remainder of this CD has Eldridge and Hodges absent while Coleman Hawkins (on "new" versions of "Mack the Knife," "It's the Talk of the Town," "Bean and the Boys" and "Caravan") heads the quartet for some excellent playing. Timeless music played by some of the top veteran stylists of the swing era.
This releases contains the complete classic album Desafinado (Impulse AS- 28), which marks Coleman Hawkins’ only incursion into the Bossa Nova genre while showcasing him as the only horn. As a bonus, Kenny Burrell’s entire LP Bluesy Burrell (Moodsville MVST29) featuring Coleman Hawkins, and recorded in between the two bossa nova sessions. Even though it was not recorded in the Bossa Nova style, it maintains the relaxed spirit of the first album. Both LPs feature the exceptional Tommy Flanagan (playing percussion on the first album), as well as Latin percussion - by Willie Rodríguez on Desafinado, and by the great Ray Barretto on Bluesy Burrell.
This session is valuable for the majestic playing of tenor great Coleman Hawkins, who performs on half of the eight tracks. While originally released on the Prestige subsidiary Moodsville – a label that specialized in recordings with an intimate, reflective atmosphere – the Moodsville sound doesn't sit comfortably on Hawkins. His playing is brilliantly relaxed, but it's not mood music. Leader Kenny Burrell's playing is much more in line with the Moodsville groove. The guitarist is not amplified as much as he is on his Prestige dates from this time. In fact, he performs on a nylon-string instrument almost as much as he does on his hollow-body electric.
“I was the engineer on the recording sessions and I also made the masters for the original LP issues of these albums. Since the advent of the CD, other people have been making the masters. Mastering is the final step in the process of creating the sound of the finished product. Now, thanks to the folks at the Concord Music Group who have given me the opportunity to remaster these albums, I can present my versions of the music on CD using modern technology. I remember the sessions well, I remember how the musicians wanted to sound, and I remember their reactions to the playbacks. Today, I feel strongly that I am their messenger.” —Rudy Van Gelder
At Ease is one of the most charming and attractive of the many albums the two made together—a collection of ballads played with great affection for the melody. Hawkins could be fiercely aggressive in his playing. In this collection, he displays his tenderness. If ever there was a master of the ballad, it was Coleman Hawkins. His romantic style and sound caused one writer to say: "Hawk turned the saxophone into the sexophone." At Ease was done for the Moodsville series but while Hawkins, with the expert help of his pianist, Tommy Flanagan, sets a mood on eight standards, it is never merely mood music.
This 57-track double-CD set seems like a no-brainer – get almost all of Ronnie Hawkins' rock & roll recordings in one place. The packaging here is good, thoughtful, and legitimate, but could also be a little misleading to those who are buying this expecting to hear a lot of early work by the musicians who later became the Band – Levon Helm was aboard on drums from the Hawks' first official recordings, but the remainder didn't begin arriving on the scene until almost two years later; they're only on hand more than one or two at a time for less than half of what's here.