Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Supreme no, good yes

On one of my favorite Chet Baker CDs Baker's trumpet playing is weak and limited in range, he misses a note now and then and his singing is tired and raspy. He needs the help of the NDR Big Band and the Hannover Radio Symphony Orchestra, both of which he played with on the live date (and they're excellent). After years living in the fast lane on a hard road, he's weeks from death and it shows.

But I like, "My Favorite Songs: The Last Great Concert," Enja, because I have yet to hear another where Baker was as emotive. I literally want to weep when he sings and blows on "My Funny Valentine." It's like, mostly stripped of all his other tools, he gets down to the essence of what made him an attractive musician in the first place, the emotions he could convey with his playing and singing.

"Supreme," a new Coleman Hawkins reissue by Enja that I bought this month, strikes me in much the same way. Yeah, Hawk, who'd be dead of his own demons a couple years after the 1966 gig in Baltimore captured on the disk, doesn't sound great. But he's giving what he's got left and some it it is the base material of his greatness. (Check out the last solo run on "Lover Come Back to Me.") Hearing him play "Body and Soul," the song which first made him famous, this late in his career is a selling point as well.

Pianist Barry Harris, Gene Taylor on bass and Roy Brooks on drums are another reason to buy "Supreme." They play well on long-form performances clocking in at 9 to 17 minutes, I think knowing Hawkins needed the support and rising to the occasion. Not the first Coleman Hawkins CD I would buy, but more worthwhile than it generally gets credit for being.

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