Pee Wee Russell & Coleman Hawkins: 28th and 8th
28th and 8th
Jazz Reunion (Candid CCD79020)
Composed by Pee Wee Russell; arranged by Nat Pierce.
Recorded: New York, February 23, 1961
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
The album title Jazz Reunion refers to the fact that Pee Wee Russell and Coleman Hawkins had not recorded together since the legendary Mound City Blue Blowers session of 1929. Those sides were most notable for Hawkins's feature on "If I Could Be with You (One Hour Tonight)," which almost single-handedly established the performance parameters for the jazz ballad. (The same tune is revisited on this album.)
The 1960s marked a resurgence for Pee Wee Russell, finally given opportunities to perform outside the friendly confines of Eddie Condon Field and the various traditionalist revival settings in which he began to seem increasingly out of place. Later in the decade, he led a pianoless quartet whose repertoire included works by John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman!
The first thing that strikes the listener about "28th and 8th" is how Russell's tune sounds as though it could have been written by Monk himself. It features an angular, leaping melody set against descending harmony in a manner reminiscent of Monk's "Skippy," though "28th and 8th" is a 12-bar blues. Bob Brookmeyer, in cup mute, solos first, his style pure valve trombone. To my ears the only analogy that comes to mind is maybe Rex Stewart down an octave. Russell, always a unique blues player, follows with a guttural, growl-inflected spot, after which Nat Pierce combines a Basie-esque lightness with some romping stride inflections. One unexpected pleasure of this album is the consistently fine solo work of Emmett Berry, a player best known for his big band work, who gets a rare chance to stretch out.
It has become somewhat fashionable to belittle Coleman Hawkins's blues playing, mostly due to his infrequent use of blues material in his repertoire and the absence of overtly bluesy mannerisms in his playing. That sounds to me like Lincoln Center Politburo propaganda, so please feel free to ignore it, and just listen to the music. If his solo here doesn't convince you of the speciousness of the anti-Hawk argument, check out his work on Abbey Lincoln's classic album Straight Ahead, also on Candid.
Reviewer: Kenny Berger