Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Coleman Hawkins

  • Ken Burns Jazz [Verve, 2000] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ken Burns Jazz [Verve, 2000]
Hawkins's sensual largesse and easy legato delivered the saxophone from vaudeville novelty. He was so deft with chords that he progressed unimpeded from swing to bebop and beyond, and along the way he launched the first solo saxophone track, which took off from the most famous solo in jazz history, his original improvisation on "Body and Soul." For all these reasons, this five-decade selection declines stylistic consistency. No problem. The big, breathy, paradigmatically Southwestern sound of his tenor doesn't dominate its harmonic trappings, or cut through them. It pervades them, from preswinging Fletcher Henderson to protégé-turned-auteur Thelonious Monk. And to finish off there's an unforced, unnostalgic Ellington-Hodges-Carney session that returns Hawkins to his youth in a graceful parabola. A