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Bennie Wallace: Disorder at the Border: The Music of Coleman Hawkins *

Track List

>Disorder At the Border
>Bean and the Boys
>Honeysuckle Rose
>Body and Soul
>Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

"This is a stomping band, as Coleman Hawkins said of the Fletcher Henderson orchestra he - and the hitherto mostly awkward tenor saxophone - grew up together with. Louis Armstrong and his hero the great cellist Pablo Casals inspired Hawkins' phrasing and timing, Art Tatum and J.S. Bach his harmonic command. His nickname "Bean" referred to high intelligence, he was an instrumental virtuoso with immense stamina and invention qua improviser, a passionate complex man never to be underrated.

The extraordinary "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" which concludes this 2004 Hawkins centenary concert from Berlin is very appropriate. Swinging fiercely with mostly just Alvin Queen's magnificent drumming, Bennie Wallace exhibits his own stamina in impassioned tenor saxophone emulation of a Bach solo invention; and that's only the climax, after a startling arrangement and succession of stirring solos: an ideal centenary celebration.

Wallace comes out of the Hawkins school: no imitator, where he sounds very like Hawkins that's a natural aspect of his own way, and what he's playing. On "Body and Soul" he's entirely individual, and has maybe never played more beautifully.

In this stomping band Stafford and Anderson can each sound like two men in ensemble, Anthony Wilson's bop-slanted arrangements are subtle or driving as appropriate, and Donald Vega's atmospheric, often extended piano introductions risk overshadowing his solo work elsewhere. Hawkins wasn't Henderson's only major soloist: I hadn't previously heard young Leali, Schroeder, Vega and Boller and want to hear more. Jesse Davis I know. Where he and Leali solo in succession then trade passages theye are plainly individual stylists.

That's on "Honeysuckle Rose," the one non-Wilson chart. Wallace organised it with reminiscences of Benny Carter's great arrangements and brilliant transcription of a passage James P. Johnson delivered in his piano solo recording of the number. Subtlety's one thing, but there's also none of that carefulness which can afflict deliveries of arrangements of music with a vintage. This is musical performance, and no pastiche. Listen to the bluesiness and slow stride of Vega's intro.

Henderson's recorded performances were restricted by technology: time limits. They couldn't unfold with the freedom, relaxation and fire Hawkins remembered. This is of course a live performance, nobody worried about finishing within any time limit, and the only "Disorder" was a word in the opening stomper's title.

Stafford's immense tone powers in ensemble, and blazes in solo. The master colourist trombonist Anderson is involved in the one brief wobble, his sound and Wallace's don't blend in their brief ensemble unison on "La Rosita," whoops! But Anderson's solo immediately thereafter has an amazing transition from harshness to luminous transparency. He delivers a differently magnificent eruption on "Honeysuckle Rose," and preaches on "Joshua..."

Wallace's tenor is properly to the fore throughout, with here an altoist, there Schroeder's baritone, performing a substantial solo as the middle section of an extended development Wallace himself has begun; and subsequently proceeds to bring to extended climax. He's a giant tenorist. This is a great and not merely stomping band." -AllAboutJazz

"Left New York's Jazz Standard last month barefoot because the band blew my socks (and even my boots) off. Baby it was cold outside, a December night threatening snow. But Bennie Wallace and the boys had played so hot I was warmed up inside and so immune to any chill.

Wallace has been working on his tribute to Coleman Hawkins for some time and to celebrate the 2007 Justin Time CD release of Disorder at the Border: The Music of Coleman Hawkins, he presented this first of a series of live New York City shows. For the CD he was joined by supremely gifted jazzmen who did this admirable, endlessly pleasing recording proud. Some very able-bodied New York gents stepped in for the live pre-Christmas 2007 run.

Tenorist Wallace is no imitator. Live or on record, he makes the Hawk soar, capturing the spirit of Hawkins while doing things his own way. This is music that makes a person glad to be alive - much the same way Hawkins' music and playing did. After all, the original played to entice people to dance and you can still feel that joyful vibe here.

Wallace coaxes a rollercoaster of sounds, emotions, feelings and stimulating thrills from his instrument, especially in his solos. One wonders why one hasn't made hearing him a regimen of daily life. And he brings new appreciation of Hawkins' music to today's scene. Not that he does it alone. Terell Stafford on trumpet, Ray Anderson on trombone, Jesse Davis and Brad Leali on altos, Adam Schroeder on baritone (the latter also at the shows) provide all the oomph and pah to make the recording feel bright and on-the-spot. (The CD performance is of a live gig at Jazzfest Berlin in November 2004). The original crackerjack rhythm section, at Jazz Standard except for drummer Alvin Queen, included pianist Donald Vega and bassist Danton Boller.

For the 2007 Jazz Standard shows, NY-based Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Alan Ferber on trombone, Steve Wilson on alto, with altoist Jerry Dodgion - for personal reasons unable to do the entire run (as he had on a lead-in tour) but scheduled for the Saturday sets - and drummer Willie Jones were on hand. And these were very capable hands indeed. Guitarist Adam Rafferty was enlisted to fill in the mix of one less alto.

Hear Anthony Wilson's hopping charts and Wallace's own intense, multi-textured arrangement of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose and you will see why this listener's socks got blown off. Hawkins' own "Disorder at the Border and "Bean and the Boys and his signature "Body and Soul," "La Rosita and "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho delight and amaze. A kind of heaven down here." -AllAboutJazz

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (p.64) - "The sound is great and everybody plays their tail off, from dueling altos that imagine Sonny Stitt meeting Cannonball Adderley, to the klaxon of trumpeter Terell Stafford..."

JazzTimes (p.132) - "A great showcase for the idiosyncratic, rambunctiously swinging, free-spirited tenor man, and a real triumph for arranger Wilson."

Album Notes

Tributee: Coleman Hawkins.

Personnel: Bennie Wallace (tenor saxophone); Jesse Davis , Brad Leali (alto saxophone); Adam Schroeder (baritone saxophone); Terell Stafford (trumpet); Ray Anderson (trombone); Donald Vega (piano); Alvin Queen (drums).

It's hard to believe that the saxophone once took a back seat to the trumpet and the cornet as a jazz instrument, but in fact, that was very much the case in the 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s. The rise of Coleman "Bean" Hawkins in the '20s, however, changed that; thanks to the popularity and visibility that Hawkins enjoyed as the tenor star of Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, saxophonists became incredibly prominent in jazz -- and any jazz musician who is playing a saxophone today (be it tenor, alto, soprano, baritone, or bass) owes him a huge debt of gratitude. Bennie Wallace is well aware of that debt, which is why the tenor man salutes him with such enthusiasm on Disorder at the Border: The Music of Coleman Hawkins. Recorded live at the Berlin JazzFest in Germany on November 6, 2004, this 65-minute CD celebrates what would have been Hawkins' 100th birthday had he lived to see November 21, 2004 (the seminal tenor man died in 1969 at the age of 64). Disorder at the Border finds Wallace leading a nonet that consists of six horn players (including trumpeter Terell Stafford and trombonist Ray Anderson) and a rhythm section, with guitarist Anthony Wilson (who isn't part of the nonet) handling the arrangements. Stylistically, Wallace is quite different from Hawkins; while Hawkins is remembered for swing, classic jazz, and bop, Wallace is identified with post-bop and the avant-garde. But Hawkins has long influenced Wallace's tone (along with Ben Webster, Eric Dolphy, and John Coltrane, among others), and Wallace's adoration of Hawkins' playing is evident on two Hawkins compositions ("Bean and the Boys" and the title track) and four other songs associated with him ("Body and Soul," "La Rosita," "Honeysuckle Rose," and "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"). That isn't to say that Wallace actually goes out of his way to emulate Hawkins; Wallace never allows his own personality to become obscured, and the result is an excellent CD that reflects both Wallace's individuality and his love of the great tenor master. ~ Alex Henderson


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