JJ 02/64: Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk

Sixty years ago Graham Boatfield welcomed the moment Rollins set himself alongside one of his major influences. First published in Jazz Journal February 1964


Recorded only in 1963, this record is truly long-awaited. Artistic middlemen and recording companies have striven during recent years to put together almost every conceivable combination of jazz musicians, occasionally in an effort to prove something. This meeting of titans is in many ways the most logical com­bination of tenor saxophone players which could have been devised – the only other pairing, if the latter had been available, would have been of Rollins with Gene Ammons.

Years ago, when very young, Rollins was a Hawkins man and has acknow­ledged his debt to this pioneer. There is not the slightest doubt that he – like many another young tenor player – has been reared within the context of Hawkins’ earlier work. Temperamentally he has long been one of the same school. He has though, ever since reaching maturity in jazz, followed his own path and reached his present position of austere and solitary eminence.

Ever since his much publicised retreat from regular work, and his evident self searching, I feel that Sonny Rollins has been – at least in this country – not so much neglected as under-regarded. Un­derstandably “Our Man In Jazz” (with Don Cherry) was a hard and bitter pill for many people to swallow; that judge­ment certainly does not extend to either The Bridge or What’s New, both of which contain a good deal of attractive and almost conventionally positive work.

The present collection is also positive but vastly stimulating, and its format – and the presence of Hawkins – both combine to make it relatively acceptable. The two tenor men drive one another, and the interplay of ideas, of tonal qualities, and of attitudes, is good to hear. Both accommodate the other, but neither is modified.

This record needs a good deal of very careful attention.

Yesterdays; All The Things You Are; Summer­time (22 min) – Just Friends; Lover Man; At McKie’s (20 min)
Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins (ten); Paul Bley (p); Henry Grimes or Bob Cranshaw (bs); Roy McCurdy (d). 1963.
(RCA Victor SF 7593 12inLP 32s. 2d.)