Legends in Jazz this weekend – Coleman Hawkins, one of the first prominent jazz musicians on his instrument, as Joachim E. Berendt explained: “there were some tenor players before him, but the instrument was not an acknowledged jazz horn”. While Hawkins is strongly associated with the swing music and big band era, he had a role in the development of bebop in the 1940s.
Fellow saxophonist Lester Young, known as “Pres”, commented in a 1959 interview with The Jazz Review: “As far as I’m concerned, I think Coleman Hawkins was the President first, right? As far as myself, I think I’m the second one.” Miles Davis once said: “When I heard Hawk, I learned to play ballads.”
No faint praise – Coleman Hawkins was the real deal and influenced untold numbers of musicians from the 1940s all the up until his death in 1969.
This broadcast, part of the NBC Radio series All-Star Parade Of Bands, was recorded live at the legendary Birdland club on 52nd street in New York in September of 1952. Alongside Hawkins are Roy Eldridge on trumpet, Horace Silver on piano – Curley Russell on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Truly, a stellar lineup.
After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a big band in the early 1940s, Hawkins led a combo at Kelly’s Stables on Manhattan’s 52nd Street with Thelonious Monk, Oscar Pettiford, Miles Davis, and Max Roach as sidemen. Hawkins always had a keen ear for new talent and styles, and he was the leader on what is generally considered to have been the first ever bebop recording session in 1944 with Dizzy Gillespie, Pettiford and Roach. Later he toured with Howard McGhee and recorded with J. J. Johnson and Fats Navarro. He also toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic.
After 1948 Hawkins divided his time between New York and Europe, making numerous freelance recordings. In 1948 Hawkins recorded “Picasso”, an early piece for unaccompanied saxophone.
In the 1950s, Hawkins performed with more traditional musicians such as Red Allen and Roy Eldridge, with whom he appeared at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival and recorded Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster with fellow tenor saxophonist Ben Webster along with Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Alvin Stoller (drums).
Hawkins directly influenced many bebop performers, and later in his career, recorded or performed with such adventurous musicians as Sonny Rollins, who considered him as his main influence, and John Coltrane. He appears on the Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (Jazzland/Riverside) record.
Perfect Summer/Sunday sitting around-checking out the newspaper (yes, there are still newspapers around), jumping into cup-of-coffee-number-4, forgetting the world spinning wildly out of control around you.
Music hath charms.