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Coleman Hawkins's "Finest Hours" (December 1949)

Referencing these recordings, writer Gunther Schuller, in his jazz history "The Swing Era" (1989), judges that "perhaps Coleman Hawkins's finest hours came in mid-career in 1949".

Schuller continues: "For reasons that I, not knowing enough of the circumstances, cannot fully explain, Hawkins was at his most creative and poised - and seemingly happiest - when he recorded six sides for the French Vogue label with, among others, Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot, the fine French bassist. Maybe it was just Hawkins's pleasure at being back in Europe, the scene of so many of his earlier personal triumphs; or maybe it was the non-competitive nature of the setting: a band in which he was clearly the master. Whatever it may have been, Hawkins was inspired - despite French pianist Mengeon's wrong "changes" - but inspired in a more resolved, mature, less restless manner. We hear a three-way balance of emotion and intellect and technique that even artists of Hawkins's calibre can only rarely command."

The same group, plus James Moody, was also recorded live two weeks earlier at a concert in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra (Vogue, 1949)

With Nat Peck (tb); Hubert Fol (as); Jean Pierre Mengeon (p); Pierre Michelot (b); Kenny Clarke (d)

Paris, December 21, 1949

Coleman Hawkins feat. Kenny Clarke (live) (TCB Records, Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series – Volume 13, 1999)

Maison du Peuple, Lausanne, December 3, 1949


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