4 1/2 really.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 08/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a rule, I tend to find records designed around the idea of jazz giants meeting to typically be a bit... overblown. Great players get together for no reason other than to play together and the result is often less than exciting-- usually it sounds contrieved and no one really pushes the envelope. As such, it seems that everytime I pop in "Sonny Meets Hawk", I do so with reservation-- two great tenor saxess of their respective generations-- Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, playing a bunch of standards together. It sounds quite frankly like a recipe for another yawner.
And it seems that every time I play the record, I'm shocked and amazed by how good it is-- Rollins, a year into his return from his sabbatical-- is fierce and puts forth some of his best playing. Pushed no doubt by his rhythm section's free jazz leanings (pianist Paul Bley, bass by either Bob Cranshaw or Henry Grimes, and drums by Roy McCurdy) and his recent experience playing with Don Cherry and Billy Higgins (where Rollins sounded a bit out of place), the leader is all over, teetering on the edge of outside and expressing himself with an energy and passion that even the past few records, as good as they are, lack. Hawkins, not to be outdone, pulls the stops as well, and while playing conventionally, rises to the challenge.
This is probably best illustrated by the extended "Loverman"-- Hawkins states the theme and solos lyrically, then starts trading solo space with Rollins. Rollins is fierce, Hawkins cuts him off and is fiercer. This builds and builds until Rollins wails in the extreme upper register of the horn and, as if to admit defeat, Hawkins retreats back to the theme. Other highlights include a smokey take on "Summertime" (featuring a stunning solo from Henry Grimes) and great inside-out playing by Rollins on "All the Things You Are". Stil, there's a downer in throwaway jam "At McKie's"-- an uptempo number, it gets a pretty lifeless performance that feels like a letdown at the end of the record.
One kind of blah track aside, its quite an album, recommended for fans of Rollins. Hawkins fans might find it a curiosity, but not essential."
Not one of his best but worth a listen
Speedy | Fl, MO USA | 01/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Somehow the style that Sonny tried out does not entirely work in this record. Of course it is tempting to doubt the humble reviewer when you have musicians like Paul Bley, Coleman Hawkins and Don Cherry (even though they play in diferent dates and groups) as band mates. You'd expect great things to happen. And they do from time to time. But some of the 'shrieks' and other nonesense that Sonny tries sound out of place with the music the group is playing. Worth a listen though, as some good stuff is always willing to surface and make you smile."