Pee Wee Russell, Coleman Hawkins: Jazz Reunion

This 1961 session brought Russell and Hawkins back together after three decades but also marked a rapprochement between old and new jazz

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Jazz Reunion is a beautifully relaxed album by some of the leading older and younger musicians of the time, working together with a marvellously simpatico understanding. When the recording was made in 1961, Pee Wee Russell and Coleman Hawkins had not met in a studio since 1929.

Russell’s uniquely individual approach was being praised at this time as “modern”, but Hawkins insisted that the clarinettist had always played that way. I’d say that his style had evolved into something so individual that it could sound modern. He occasionally appeared with modernists, for instance with Thelonious Monk at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963. There are parallels here with Sidney Bechet, whose great album with Martial Solal is one of the highlights of his later career.

The repertoire also is a mix of older and more modern standards, a fine example of the latter being the interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s Tin Tin Deo. Russell’s beautifully oblique and fragile-sounding style is on display on every track, and his solos are affecting. New Grove rightly describes his “variations of intentionally unorthodox timbres, growls alternating with hard attacks, and softly articulated notes held with a slow, almost sour, vibrato.” In contrast to the runs of eighth notes favoured by his contemporaries, Russell’s lines had greatly contrasting rhythms and unusual note-choices. His behind-the-beat approach adds to the utterly distinctive impact.

Hawkins is in excellent form throughout, with characteristically robust solos. Bob Brookmeyer on trombone shows his wit and inventiveness. There are excellent arrangements and solos by Nat Pierce, while Jo Jones again shows his mastery of the drum kit. A superb reissue.

Discography
If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight); Tin Tin Deo; Mariooch; All Too Soon; 28th And 8th; What Am I Here For (45.40)
Pee Wee Russell (cl); Coleman Hawkins (ts); Bob Brookmeyer (tb); Emmett Berry (t); Nat Pierce (p); Milt Hinton (b); Jo Jones (d). New York City, 23 February 1961.
Candid CCD 33202