Sonny Rollins / Coleman Hawkins: Sonny Meets Hawk


Billed as the “boss of modern tenor sax meets the father of jazz saxophone”, this recording came about as a result of Rollins and Hawk playing on stage together at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival. Both are on top form here and, as you might expect, in highly competitive mood throughout.

Hawkins plays with remarkable vigour and seems to be playing in a much more bop orientated mode than usual. He matches Rollins’ uptempo runs and plays some bright and inventive endings with Sonny always there at his side, shadowing or, at times, appearing to goad him.

For his part Rollins is in particularly experimental mood, sometimes playing overtones high above Hawk’s lines and keeping and controlling them for long stretches.

When they do come together in more creative mode it is impressive; on “Lover Man” there are exceptional solos by both tenor men and a fine ending by Hawkins with Rollins soaring above him in a higher register. “Summertime” works well too with both horn men in inventive mood, their phrases pouring out over a churning rhythm section. “At McKies” is Sonny nearly all the way, a hard swinger bolstered by the thrust of Bley, Grimes and McCurdy. 

The rhythm section help considerably on all selections with their consistent push of the two soloists and Bley has some tasty if somewhat fractured solos to offer. It doesn’t work in the way Hawk and Ben Webster did on record but then they were both on the same wavelength. Here, Hawkins is in some fast contemporary company and all things considered he comes through very well, matching his partner every step of the way and working with a hard swinging if quite aggressive rhythm section.

Yesterdays; All The Things You Are; Summertime; Just Friends; Lover Man; At McKies’ (41.03)
Rollins, Hawkins (ts); Paul Bley (p); Henry Grimes., Bob Cranshaw (b) Roy McCurdy (d) NYC 1963.
RCA Victor LPM -2712 / (vinyl)