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Music Review: Coleman Hawkins – At Ease with Coleman Hawkins

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By now, it would seem that the music of tenor saxman Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969) would seem somehow quaint or old-fashioned. Instead, this music holds up surprisingly well. Hawkins, whose playing influenced several generations of musicians, not just in jazz but across the genre gap to include rock and roll and pop music, created timeless music that has as much appeal today as when it was first recorded.

For my generation, driving music was and probably is epitomized by John Kay rocking out "Born to be Wild" on the radio. The music on this CD takes a quieter approach, but I drove around for several days with these songs on the CD player. There's a rhythm in this music and a power that fills the space of the car and carries you along. It may be elements of hot jazz or be-bop that linger in these later recordings by Hawkins or it may be something more subtle, but At Ease with Coleman Hawkins makes very cool music to drive by.

The first track, "For You, For Me, Forevermore" sets the tone for the rest of the album. the song starts off soft and warm with just Tommy Flanagan on piano alternating with Hawkins' sax. It's sultry and smooth music made for romance. Out of this warm glow grows something cool and groovy as sax and piano are joined by Wendell Marshall on bass and Osie Johnson on drums. The song takes on a swing that carries the listener along without ever sacrificing the romantic mood set by the opening bars.

It's difficult to say much more about the remaining seven tracks on this release. Ranging from a quiet lounge-music affect through the Latin swingtime of "While We're Young" to jazzy blues and close-dancing music and even the almost classical sense of "Poor Butterfly" originally released by The Hilltoppers, these songs all have an intimate feel suitable for a small club or perhaps a romantic couple sharing wine in front of the fireplace.

What impresses most is the grace with which Hawkins releases his notes almost effortlessly. There is a sense that this musician was born with the music inside him and that it just naturally flows from him through his instrument and into the room. The ease with which Hawkins plays makes these performances something very special. The fact that he is supported by three excellent jazzmen enhances his performance to perfection.

While it may serve well as music to drive by, the music on this release is really the stuff of romance. There's a seductive quality to this music that would make a beautiful backdrop to a romantic evening with a special friend. It has a timeless quality that takes the listener away from the harshness of the real world and into someplace warm and comfortable, perfect for cuddling or for dancing cheek to cheek.

Any jazz fan will want to add this album to his or her collection, but I recommend it for any fan of excellent music of any genre. This is a wonderful set of music that definitely deserved to be re-released.

Beyond the music, this CD includes Ron Eyre's liner notes from the original album; a brief reflective note by Rudy van Gelder, who was the engineer on the original recording sessions and also made the masters for this CD release; and extensive new liner notes for this release by Zan Stewart. These notes provide an interesting and informative read, filling out the story of both the artist and his music.

To learn more about jazz legend Coleman Hawkins, go to the Red Hot Jazz website or to Wikipedia.

At Ease with Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins
Moodsville Records
8 tracks

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  • Nice review, Bob. I’ve always been a sucker for sax and it doesn’t get much better than this.