Record of the Day: Coleman Hawkins, "The Hawk Relaxes"

Record of the Day: Coleman Hawkins, “The Hawk Relaxes”

Coleman Hawkins
The Hawk Relaxes (Cd Prestige PRCD-8106-2)

At the beginning of 2006 the Prestige label decided to entrust the great technician Rudy Van Gelder (as its competitor Blue Note had previously done) with the refurbishment of several titles from its rich catalogue, created decades earlier by Van Gelder himself in his studio and now remastered in 24 bit. If the Blue Notes had caused confusion in many purists of the
jazz due to the choices made by Van Gelder today on the sound, these Prestige releases seem to have found a calmer reception (personally I also find the ones made previously excellent, but I’m not a purist and therefore I won’t comment).

One of my favorite records from this first series of releases is “The Hawk Relaxes”, made in 1961 by the old lion Coleman Hawkins for the Moodsville series, specialized in music with soft and relaxed atmospheres. The very warm tone of Hawk’s sax is expressed in an unsurpassed way in the world of ballads, and this album is no exception. At the head of an exquisitely crafted group featuring Rennell Bright on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Ron Carter on double bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums (who will surprise those who only knew him as a fiery representative of the avant-garde scene alongside Cecil Taylor) , Hawkins displays all his charm and his inimitable personality through songs that he must have performed hundreds of times by now such as “Under a Blanket of Blue”, “Just a Gigolo”, “Speak Low” and “I’ll Never Be the Same” and which despite this never have a single routine phrase, always appearing inventive and interesting.

The atmosphere is discreetly suffused, everyone moves almost on tiptoe to leave room for the broad melodic phrases of the solo saxophone which serenades the ears of the listener, avoiding sappyness and using incisive phrasing even in the most delicate passages; even the solos of the other participants always stay on the edge of understatement, avoiding gigism and focusing their attention on the melodic development of the phrases to reach the heart of the compositions.
The album is rather short (37 minutes) but if you are not among those who judge music by weight as if they were at the butcher’s this shouldn’t be a problem (among other things, the reissue is in a cheap series).

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.