Coleman Hawkins: Quintessence




Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax)


Today and Now (Impulse 184)

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Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Tommy Flanagan (piano),

Major Holley (bass), Eddie Locke (drums)


Composed by Quincy Jones


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 9 & 11, 1962


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Coleman Hawkins could indeed make filet mignon out of chopped liver, much like Sonny Rollins. On Today and Now, Bean recorded swinging and worthwhile versions of such unlikely tunes as "Go L'il Liza," "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree." However, producer Bob Thiele also brought to the studio the music for a Quincy Jones composition, "Quintessence," which the quartet proceeded to knock off in just one lovely take. (See Jones's 1961 album The Quintessence for the original rendition featuring Phil Woods.)

Hawkins's precipitous decline in both health and performing ability would not begin for another three years, so "Quintessence" remains a fine late example of his exquisitely assured and compelling approach to a poignant ballad. This is no "Body and Soul," as Hawkins does not even take a solo, but rather a study in how subtle variations in tone, and melodic embellishments, can also form a path to success when conceived by a master saxophonist. Hawkins's expressive tone moves from breathy to edgy, hardening most noticeably on the bridge. Flanagan is softly lyrical, with a becoming chime-like sound in both his intro and solo. Hawkins follows the pianist's solo with a biting recital of the bridge, before returning to the opening chorus and ultimately to a short coda, perfectly formed and resolved. Jones's theme, by the way, contains a dramatic phrase that seems to presage Michel Legrand's more famous "The Summer Knows."

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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