Recent listening, current

Sunday, March 31, 2013

67. Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962)

By all accounts a long time in the making, the result of this collaboration is worth the wait. Scaled back arrangements showcase the soloists and focus, of course, on the eloquent, mellifluous tenor of Coleman Hawkins. It's a relaxed and familiar session, with some hot blowing by everyone, especially Ray Nance ("Wanderlust"), Johnny Hodges ("You Dirty Dog"), and Lawrence Brown, who are clearly inspired by Hawk's presence. The affair starts with the loose and tumbling Latin groove of "Limbo Jazz," recorded secretly by Van Gelder and capturing a riotous continuo scat vocal by Sam Woodyard. Late in the tune, Hawk is invited to join the fun. We are treated to a sublime "Mood Indigo," where the star takes chorus after chorus until bowing out in the last bar. This exhilarating performance always leaves me excited for what comes next. The record really feels like Duke during "Ray Charles' Place" when they do some ensemble figures in powerful, transcendent chords. Hawk dives right in the middle and has ample support from the group who seem to draw up the whole tune up around him. Lawrence Brown has some nice solos throughout the album, notably on 'Wanderlust" and "The Jeep is Jumpin'." I think Hawk's best moments occur in the aforementioned "Mood Indigo" but the honorary "Self Portrait of the Bean" runs a close second and is as near to Hawk's thesis as we're going to get this side of "Body and Soul." 

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