Jazz at 100 Hour 12: Ascent of the Tenor – Coleman Hawkins

We have to remember that the clarinet dominated the reeds throughout the 1920s. Sidney Bechet made a stand with the soprano sax and Frankie Trumbauer celebrated the lightness of the C-melody sax. And then there was Coleman Hawkins.

Our guest today is Jeff Decker – saxophonist, composer, educator and member of the jazz performance faculty of the University of Virginia McIntyre School of Music.

“In the wake of the first generation of sax players, the reed tradition had favored a lighter sound, with a greater emphasis on ornamentation and patterns than on robust push-the-band improvisation. By the time Hawkins had finished his redefinition of the instrument, a streamlined jazz tenor sax sound had been forged, one that remained dominant for the next forty years, and retains considerable influence to this day.” – Ted Gioia

“Hawk had a heavy stalwart attack, while Young was light and airy; Hawk tagged every chord in a harmonic procession, while Young favored a compressed melodicism borne on the higher harmonic intervals; Hawk clamped down on rhythm, Young floated over it.” – Gary Giddens

Wherever There’s A Will, Baby. McKinney’s Cotton Pickers
(Joe Smith-tp, Sidney de Paris-tp, Leonard Davis-tp, Claude Jones-tb, Don Redman-cl/as/bs/voc, Benny Carter-cl/as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Theodore McCord-cl/ts, Fats Waller-p, Dave Wilborn-ban, Billy Taylor-tu, Kaiser Nesbitt-d). 11/7/1929.
“… Hawkins had established for all time the stature of the tenor in two weeks in
November [1929] with a handful of solos that require no apologies. The first evidence of his heightened skill was heard on sessions by a [Don] Redman unit [McKinney’s Cotton Pickers], especially “Wherever There’s A Will.” One week later he produced a monumental solo as a guest of the Mound City Blue Rollers …” – Gary Giddens
One Hour. Mound City Blue Blowers
(Red McKenzie-comb, Glenn Miller-tb, Pee Wee Russell-cl, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Condon-ban, Jack Bland-g, Pops Foster-b, Gene Krupa-d). 11/14/1929. (The Norton Jazz Recordings)
“Up to this point, Hawkins’s playing had conspicuously lacked a legato, or smooth, attack. His phrasing had consisted of clearly articulated notes, even at very fast tempos. An essential component of swing was missing: relaxation. Nor was there any romance in his music. Playing legato meant learning how to soften the gruff edges of his timbre and to move from one note to another with a fluid, more graceful commanding manner. In ‘One Hour,’ Hawkins unveiled a radically new approach to the tenor saxophone – one that transcended the smooth melodicism of Trumbauer with nearly rapturous power.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Queer Notions. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra
(Russell Smith, Bobby Stark, Henry “Red” Allen-tp, Dicky Wells-tb, Sandy Williams-tb, Russell Procope, Hilton Jefferson-cl/as, Coleman Hawkins-cl/ts, Fletcher Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, John Kirby-b, Walter Johnson-d). 8/18/1933.
“Hawkins’s interest in modern composition is manifest in the rhythmically hypnotic “Queer Notions,” a piece he wrote for Henderson employing augmented chords and whole-tone scales.” – Gary Giddens
I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song. Horace Henderson and his Orchestra
(Russell Smith, Bobby Stark-tp, Henry “Red” Allen-tp/voc, Dicky Wells, Claude Jones-tb, Russell Procope, Hilton Jefferson-cl/as, Coleman Hawkins-cl/ts, Horace Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, John Kirby-b, Walter Johnson-d). 10/3/1933.

Hocus Pocus. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra
(Russell Smith, Joe Thomas, Henry “Red” Allen-tp, Claude Jones, Keg Johnson-tb, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Hilton Jefferson-cl/as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Fletcher Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, John Kirby-b, Victor Engle-d). 3/6/1934.
“On one of Hawkins’s last recordings with Henderson in 1934, ‘Hocus Pocus,’ he builds his solo using languid quarter-note triplets, producing the sort of floating laid-back feeling usually associated with his karmic opposite, Lester Young.” – Kenny Berger

Small Groups.
While Hawkins was still with Henderson’s band, he continued to record with small ensembles, including a fine series with Henderson alumnus Henry “Red” Allen.

Heart-Break Blues. Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra
(Henry Allen-tp, JC Higgenbotham-tb, Hilton Jefferson-cl/as, Horace Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, John Kirby-b, Walter Johnson-d). 9/29/1933.
Jamaica Shout. Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra
(Henry Allen-tp, JC Higgenbotham-tb, Hilton Jefferson-cl/as, Horace Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, John Kirby-b, Walter Johnson-d). 9/29/1933.
Dark Clouds. Henry Allen – Coleman Hawkins and their Orchestra
(Henry “Red” Allen-tp/voc, Benny Morton-tb, Edward Inge-cl/as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Horace Henderson-p, Bernard Addison-g, Bob Ysaguirre-b, Manzie Johnson-d). 11/9/1933.
The word went round that Hawkins was in the Cherry Blossom, and within about half an hour there were Lester Young, Ben Webster, Herschel Evans, Herman Walder, and one or two unknown tenors piling in the club to blow. Bean didn’t know the Kaycee tenor men were so terrific, and he couldn’t get himself together though he played all morning. … Hawkins was in his singlet taking turns with the Kaycee men. It seems he had run into something he didn’t expect. Lester’s style was light, and, as I said, it took him maybe five choruses to warm up. But then he would really blow; then you couldn’t handle him on a cutting session. That was how Hawkins got hung up. … Yes, Hawkins was king until he met those crazy Kansas City tenor men.” – Mary Lou Williams

Lost In A Fog. Coleman Hawkins – Stanley Black duo
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Stanley Black-p). 11/18/1934.
Honeysuckle Rose. Coleman Hawkins – Stanley Black duo
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Stanley Black-p). 11/18/1934.

Coleman Hawkins in Europe.
In 1934, Hawkins followed many other jazz musicians looking for a better social and economic environment in Europe. He stayed five years, during which he mostly recorded with sub-par groups. In one session, however, he found himself in the company of first rate American musicians like Benny Carter and their peers from France – Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli.

Honeysuckle Rose. Coleman Hawkins & His All Star Jam Band
(Benny Carter-as/tp, Andre Eykan-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Alix Combelle-ts/cl, Stephane Grappelli-p, Django Reinhardt-g, Eugene d’Hellemes-b, Tommy Benford-d). 4/28/1937.
Crazy Rhythm. Coleman Hawkins & His All Star Jam Band
(Benny Carter-as/tp, Andre Eykan-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Alix Combelle-ts/cl, Stephane Grappelli-p, Django Reinhardt-g, Eugene d’Hellemes-b, Tommy Benford-d). 4/28/1937.

Hawkins Returns.
In 1939, Hawkins returned to New York to a musical scene dominated by swing bands that hadn’t even existed when he left. His dominance on tenor sax was challenged by Lester Young, Ben Webster, Chu Berry and others. With the session of October 11, Hawkins reestablished his preeminence.

Meet Doctor Foo. Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra
(Tommy Lindsay-tp, Joe Guy-tp, Earl Hardy-tb, Jackie Fields-as, Eustis Moore-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Gene Rodgers-p, William Oscar Smith-g, Arthur Herbert-d). 10/11/1939.
Body and Soul. Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra
(Tommy Lindsay-tp, Joe Guy-tp, Earl Hardy-tb, Jackie Fields-as, Eustis Moore-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Gene Rodgers-p, William Oscar Smith-g, Arthur Herbert-d). 10/11/1939. (The Norton Jazz Recordings / The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz)
“After the piano introduction…, the performance is all Hawkins for two choruses and a coda. He begins briskly, his tone smooth as worn felt. Then after two measures, something unusual happens” ‘Body and Soul’ disappears. More dramatically than on ‘One Hour,’ Hawkins heads into new territory, extending his initial phrase into an original melodic arc. His spiraling phrases, representing a zenith of the arpeggio style, advance with assurance and deliberation, building tension. Hawkins later described the climatic passages as a kind of sexual release. This record proved to be a critical milestone and a tremendous commercial success.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

“When I heard Hawk, I learned to play ballads.” – Miles Davis

Recordings.
The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddens. W.W. Norton 933796
The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Columbia P6 11891
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers – Put It There. Frog DGF 25
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers – Cotton Picker’s Scat. Frog DGF 26
Coleman Hawkins: 1929 – 1934. Classics 587
Coleman Hawkins: 1939 – 1940. Classics 634
Coleman Hawkins – The Essential Sides Remastered 1934-1936. JSP 93
Big Band: Vol. 002, Fletcher Henderson (1932-33). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Swing Time: Vol. 001, Henry “Red” Allen (1933-35). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Swing Time: Vol. 031, Coleman Hawkins (1936-38). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection

Resources.
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press.
“Coleman Hawkins” by Kenny Berger
Giddens, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 6. Armstrong and the First Great Soloists
Chapter 9. A World of Soloists
Giddens, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York. The Oxford University Press.
Chapter 13. Coleman Hawkins (Patriarch)
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 4. Harlem
Chapter 5. The Swing Era
Magee, Jeffrey. 2005. The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. London. Oxford University Press.
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers – Put It There
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. Cotton Picker’s Scat
Coleman Hawkins: 1929 – 1934
Coleman Hawkins: 1939 – 1940

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