Thursday, December 29, 2011

Varied & Vintage Coleman Hawkins in Europe

Coleman Hawkins, In Europe: London, Paris & Brussels (Standing Oh!vation), is an import DVD that collects video from four different European locations with Jazz’s first great tenor saxophonist heard in different group contexts from 1962 to 1966. The DVD contains nearly two hours of performances from those shows as well as a bonus of almost a half hour in bonus performances from the 1960 TV film, After Hours with another group featuring Hawkins.

In Europe opens with a quintet that he co-leads with Harry ‘Sweets” Edison with a group that includes Sir Charles Thompson on piano, Jimmy Woods on bass and Jo Jones on drums. Filmed in 1964 at London's Town Hall, the full group is featured on Wardell Grey’s Stoned. This is followed by ballad features for Hawkins (September Song), Thompson (What’s New on which Hawkins is heard reciting the melody at the opening), and Edison (Willow Weep For Me). The full group is seen on Edison’s blues Centerpiece, before the set closes with the Ellington standard, Caravan, which spotlights drummer Jones. The next set is from 1966’s Royal Jazz Festival in London and has Hawkins in a quintet co-led with the great Benny Carter and with a terrific rhythm section of Teddy Wilson on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Louis Bellson on drums. They launch into a swinging Blue Lou, before short ballad features for Carter, I Can’t Get Started, and Hawkins, Body and Soul, before a lengthy romp on Hawkins’ Disorder at the Border, which gives everyone a chance to stretch out. Musically, these selections may be the highpoint of this video compilation.

A nice 1966 Parisian rendition of the standard Moonglow follows with Hawkins supported by Oscar Peterson on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on bass is followed by an intriguing 1962 quintet date from Brussels with pianist George Arvanitas, guitarist Mickey Baker, bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Kansas Fields. The interesting program opens with an unaccompanied tenor sax solo from Hawkins, Blowing For Adolphe Sax. The rest of the program includes a spirited Disorder at the Border, South of France Blues (aka Blues in G and Rifftide. “South of France Blues” is reminiscent of “After Hours” and is a chance for guitarist Baker, a respected session man on hundreds of sessions and the Mickey of Mickey & Sylvia fame, to shine in addition to Hawkins.

As if these performances were not enough, the 1960 TV show After Hours is included, with a sextet co-led with trumpeter Roy Eldridge, a rhythm section of guitarist Barry Galbraith, pianist Johnny Guarnieri bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Cozy Cole with vocalist Carol Stevens. Legendary NYC radio announcer William B. Williams does the voice over to set the scene of a late night after hours club where the musicians just pop in to play and if the setting is a little contrived, the music is very solid.

I would not be surprised if Standing Oh!vation is a successor to the Improv-Jazz series of DVDs and like those, the packaging is not very elaborate. It lacks the superb annotation that is characteristic of the JazzIkons series of DVDs and the reproduction of the original film does not seem to be as good, but certainly the video here is quite satisfactory and the performances are quite welcome to have available. Fans of the Hawk and swinging jazz will enjoy these.

This review originally appeared in the March 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 314) and my review copy was provided by a publicist. It may be hard to find as well but worth searching out.  Jazz Loft ( does show this in their online DVD catalog.

Coleman Hawkins from you tube performing South of France Blues.

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