In this crazy run-around world where we never really have time to stop and appreciate all the good things in our lives, it is pretty hard to make time for Coleman Hawkins. But that is precisely why it is so important to do so. They really never invented a saxophone player better than him, and very few musicians have ever gotten closer to what jazz is supposed to be.
At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, originally released in 1960, is like a 42-minute journey into Zen simplicity, with a touch of sexy swagger on the side. Many people today have forgotten just how good the Bean was at this stage of his career. But just because none of the work here is as revolutionary as his work in the 1920s, '30s or '40s doesn't mean these songs aren't full of beauty and invention. His work here on "Then I'll Be Tired of You" starts off kind of sleepy, all loopy Dean Martin phrases, and then gets slightly more beboppy as things go on, until he sounds like Sonny Rollins or someone like that. (Funny quotation work in this solo too!) And there's no mistaking his majesty on the ancient chestnut "At Dawning" or his predatory stroll through the just-as-ancient "Poor Butterfly."
But At Ease is not just all pretty notes and assurance. Hawkins was smart to have bopper Tommy Flanagan as his pianist hereyou can hear the two push each other on the opener, "For You, For Me, Forevermore," generations teaching each other how to cook. Flanagan's beautiful intro on "Mighty Like a Rose" ends up presaging his pretty solo two minutes later. And the rhythm section stars throughout. Osie Johnson's drumming is always amazing, but Wendell Marshall deserves special marks for his bass line at the start of "I'll Get By."
This recording isn't fiery or out there, but it's about as solid as one can be, and it proves (for about the millionth time) the mastery of Coleman Hawkins. So what's not to love?
For You, For Me, Forevermore; While We're Young; Then I'll Be Tired of You; Mighty Like a Rose; At Dawning; Trouble Is a Man; Poor Butterfly; I'll Get By (As Long as I Have You).