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Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Hawk In Paris - Coleman Hawkins


La Mer

The Hawk In Paris
Coleman Hawkins
With Manny Albam and His Orchestra
Arranged and Conducted by Manny Albam
Produced and Directed by Jack Lewis
Photo by Lester Bookbinder
Recorded at Webster Hall in New York
Recording Engineer: Ray Hall
Vik LX-1059
A Product Of Radio Corporation Of America

From the back cover: "Paris," says Coleman Hawking, "is it.' It's the most 'it' place there is." 

This is a thought that will find many backers, but for Hawkins it is particularly true. For it was in Paris that Hawkins was really discovered and that he, in turn, found himself.

The year was 1935. At that time Hawkins' big, rough, kicking tenor saxophone had been serving as the guts of Fletcher Henderson's band for twelve years. Before that he had been a teen-age sensation in Mamie  Smith's Jazz Hounds, the little band that accompanied that legendary blues singer.

In the Twenties and early Thirties jazz musicians were scarcely known beyond the limits of the profession in this country. But when Louis Armstrong, then a stranger to most of his own countrymen, went abroad in 1932, he found that he was a famous hero to the jazz-hungry Europeans. Hawkins followed him in 1935 and was greeted in Paris with trumpets and alarums. For Hawkins, the sea change was even more impressive than it had been for Armstrong. Louis, at least, had been a band leader in the United States and had recorded with his band. But Hawkins had never been more than a sideman. When he went to Paris, there were no records bearing his name as a leader.

The Parisians knew him, however. They had eagerly followed his work with Henderson through records. They welcomed him as one of the great classic figures of jazz. And Hawkins responded. He played his heart out all over Paris. He moved on to Holland, to England. He traveled all over Europe, acclaimed wherever he went. Given this unaccustomed opportunity to work alone in the spotlight, he developed as a soloist far beyond anything that had been possible in his occasion brief choruses with the Henderson band. It was this trip to Paris in 1935 and his subsequent four-year stay overseas that gave Hawkins the chance to acquire the polish that made him a master of that twilight zone that lies between jazz and balladry and which involves a great deal of both.

For his first appearance on the Vik label, producer Jack Lewis suggested that Hawkins apply this special talent to a musical visit to the scene of his great triumph. The tunes, of mixed American and French origins, have been provided with aptly provocative setting for Hawkins' saxophone by Manny Albam. Three different accompanying groups are involved. 

One is a ten-man ensemble made up of Nick Travis, trumpet; Chauncey Welsch, trombone; Ray Beckenstien, flute and alto sax; Al Epstein, English horn, clarinet and baritone sax; Romeo Penquet, bass clarinet, tenor sax and clarinet; Hank Jones, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Marty Wilson, chimes and vibes; Arnold Fishkind, bass and Osie Johnson, drums.

With them, Hawkins plays Mimi, the made-in America Maurice Chevalier trademark, developed by Hawkins into a riding riff; Cole Porter's I Love Paris, which Manny Albam has invested with some stray figures from Gershwin's An American In Paris; Under Paris Skies, a French tune which starts as a waltz with the reels voiced to sound like a concertina before Hawkins switches the tempo to a four-beat; and Mademoiselle de Paree, also originally a waltz but played in 4/4 here. On this last selection, those who remember Count Basie's Feedin' The Beans, on which Hawkins was featured, will recognize the riff which Albam has set against the melody.

The second group consists of Urbie Green, trombone; Romeo Penquet, flute and alto flute; Janet Putnam, harp; five violins; two cellos; and the same rhythm section section. It provided background for the rich, ballad style of Hawkins on that most haunting of all American songs about Paris, April In Paris; Edith Piaf's greater success, My Man (Mon Homme); and Charles Trenet's La Mer, on which Urbie Green plays a trombone solo based on a part written for French horn.

The third group is essentially the same as the second, with trumpeter Nick Travis replacing Green. Three of the tunes played with this instrumentation are currently popular in France; La Chnouf, complete with wah-wah trumpet by Travis and a boogie beat for the Hawk to ride on; Tu n' jeux pas t' figurer, which features the lyric side of Hawkins; and Chines percy sans collier with Romeo Penquet's English horn soloing at the beginning and the end. The fourth selection by this group is the wistful Paris In The Spring.

Hawkins has rarely sounded better than he does on this nostalgic visit. And, according to the Hawk, he has never been recorded before with the range and clarity that engineer Ray Hall has given him here. – John S. Wilson

From Billboard - October 20, 1956: The best playing by tenor veteran altho he's framed by written arrangements which aren't particularly interesting. The tunes are all associated with Paris and some resist jazz treatment. Still Hawk emerges victorious in that big baroque way of his. The artist isn't in top vogue at present, but this should help recoup his audience. Some good jock material in such as "April In Paris" and "La Mer." Smart cover will help.

April In Paris
Mon Momme
Under Paris Skies
La Chnouf
La Vie en rose
La Mer
Paris In The Spring
I Love Paris
Mademoiselle de Paree
Chiens perdu sans collier
Tu n' peux pas 't figurer

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