The Centennial Collection
The RCA Bluebird Centennial Collections are, for the money, neat packages. In addition to a single disc covering an artists' career for the label, there is also a bonus DVD with rare TV, documentary and video footage. In the case of Coleman Hawkins, the man credited with bringing the tenor saxophone into the jazz world as a solo instrument, the 20 tunes picked here reflect the fully developed voice of the soloist in 1939 on his seminal recording "Body and Soul." Hawkins is also presented here as a focal point of McKinney's Cotton Pickers on Don Redman's "Where There's a Will" from 1929, the Mound City Blue Blowers from that same year ("If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight," and "Hello Lola"). Hawkins is also heard in the company of Fletcher Henderson and Lionel Hampton from 1934 and '39 respectively. The rest of the material comes form the 1940s when Hawkins was making records under his own name like his seminal "Angel Face," a beautiful and moving read of Harold Arlen's "I Love You," and "Bouncing With Bean," with his octet in 1940. The tunes from the '50s offer Hawkins both as a leader and as a featured soloist with Billy Byers ("The Bean Stalks Again" and "There Will Never Be Another You") and with the Henry "Red" Allen All-Stars ("Love Me or Leave Me"). Along the way are Hawkins classics such as his brilliant version of "April in Paris" recorded at Webster Hall in 1956 accompanied by Osie Johnson, Hank Jones, Urbie Green, Barry Galbraith and Arnold Fishkin with a string section. From that same session comes a quartet reading of "Body and Soul" to close the set, with Jones playing celeste in addition to piano. The DVD features five performances of Hawkins on various television programs from 1950s. Of these, his "Lover Man," from a pilot is worth the purchase price all by itself. Highly recommended.