Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records, Part 18: Coleman Hawkins

This finishes off 1949, Prestige's first year of operation, and a year that saw them still releasing exclusively on 78, though these early cuts would be re-released as they moved into the still-new LP field - and some on 45 RPM EPs. Many of these early records were originally recorded for European labels, then licensed to the fledgling Prestige for American distribution, giving Bob Weinstock the beginnings of a substantial catalog, and one hit: James Moody's "I'm in the Mood for Love."

December 21, 1949, saw Coleman Hawkins in Paris, with a group of ex-pats and French players, cutting a bunch of songs that never seem to have been released on any European label -- at least according to jazzdiscoorg -- and seem never to have received any exposure at all until years later, when they were finally released as part of the Prestige 7000 series. It may have originally been a radio broadcast.
Coleman Hawkins

Hawkins had lived the ex-pat life in Europe during the late 1930s, and throughout the 40s made several trips back across the Atlantic. Most notably with him on this date was Kenny Clarke, the bebop drumming pioneer who at this stage of his life was still back and forth to Paris, but would eventually (after a stint as the original drummer for the Modern Jazz Quartet) settle in Paris permanently. The other ex-pat was trombonist Nat Peck, who according to Wikipedia is still alive -- and someone should be interviewing him! He could almost have made my "living artists who played with Bird" series -- he did play with Dizzy Gillespie in 1953.
Of the French artists, Hubert Fol's bio can only be found on the German Wikipedia, but he played a lot with Django Reinhardt, as well as working with Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and Howard McGhee on European tours. Pierre Michelot, who died in 2005, has an impressive resume with American ex-pats and touring musicians, but these two stand out for me. He was the bass player in a regular trio with Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke. And he worked with Miles Davis in creating the score for Ascenseur pour l'echafaud.

The session included six songs -- "Sih-Sah," "It's Only A Paper Moon," "Bean's Talking Again," "Bay-U-Bah," "I Surrender Dear," and "Sophisticated Lady." I only found "Sih-Sah" and "Bean's Talking Again"on Spotify, so those were the two I listened to most closely. They're billed as sextet records, but the other two horns play on very short opening and closing choruses, then stay out of the way. Which is a wise choice. Hawkins is strong, mellow, lyrical, beautiful. Both are ballads -- in fact. they're very similar.

You can find all or most of the cuts on YouTube thanks to a channel created by Heinz Becker. Here's "Sih-Sah":

No comments: