The ass’s were a turning point in the history of music, which coincides with a turning point In the mindset of African Americans, especially in large clues Like New York. The black entertainment Industry, up until now, had always been a white mans exhalation of the Negro for white audiences (Cooper). The Harlem renaissance and the idea of the ‘New Negro’ was a precursor for a wave of African American musicians and songwriters who would not be restricted to the same conventions which their predecessors were. Coleman Hawkins learned to play the piano at the age of 5, and woo years later he moved on to the cello.
At 9 he learned the saxophone and by the time he was twelve he was playing In the Kansas City Theatre Pit Band. Coleman Hawkins first Inserted himself Into the Jazz scene In 1 921 , at the very beginning of the Jazz age and the roaring ass’s. He played alongside the traveling blues and vaudeville star, Miami Smith. After playing this background role for 2 years, he joined Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. This would reinvent Coleman Hawkins as a lead soloist and a big star of American Jazz, a title that he retained for more than 40 years (Yawn).
Hawkins should be included In this course because he was a major part of the swing Jazz and big band movement, both In America and Europe, while reinventing the tenor saxophone as a Jazz instrument and an art form. His single, ‘Body and Soul’, was not only outrageously popular, but did so while defying many of the swing conventions of jazz music at the time. He was also one of the pioneers of early bebop and was a huge influence on later musicians such as John Chlorate and sonny Rollins. Fletcher Henderson Orchestra was one of the most popular and Influential ‘Hot
Jazz’ bands of the offs, and Coleman Hawkins was a full time member for 1 1 years and was considered the centerpiece of the band (Oxford). Their home was the Roseland Ballroom. This dance club would later be known as the best dance club in New York. (Oxford). They also frequented the Savoy Ballroom, the most popular Black and Tan dance club in New York. This club was influential because it was a mixed race club where both blacks and whites came to dance, and racial differences were largely left at the door. ‘The Savoy was a building, a geographic place, a ballroom, and the soul of a neighborhood.
It personified a community and an era, and became a monument to the music and dance of ‘swing” (Neglecter 3). Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra were likely the most influential swing group of the sass’s. One measurement of this is how often Henderson and his band were recorded and broadcasted. “Henderson was the most frequently recorded black musician in the first decade of Jazz’s recorded history’ (Image 8). Jeffrey Image also notes that his highest frequency of recordings took place between 1923-1927.
During this time period Coleman Hawkins was a permanent member of Henderson Orchestra. The Bands instrumental star was definitely Hawkins” (Clinton 26). In the years before and after Louis Armstrong was part of Henderson Orchestra, Hawkins was the main soloist. “Louis influenced the band greatly by making the men swing-conscious with that New Orleans style of his. That same effect that Hawkins had on reeds, that right down-to-earth swing, with punch and bounce” (Fletcher Henderson). Was copied by almost all tenors after Hawkins got big in the New York Jazz scene.
Coleman Hawkins way of playing the Tenor saxophone was his own, and was almost entirely different from anything previously heard on the tenor sax, which, in the early ass’s was still primarily a marching band instrument. “Hawkins arrived at his own [Musical] style without apparently being heavily influenced by anyone in particular”(Clinton 18). Hawkins, who is widely known as a modest and unassuming man (Clinton 27), made a statement saying that, “l guess its true that I introduced a new style, a new way of playing tenor.
I had a much heavier tongue, for one thing, than most of the others, and their tone was kind of 27). However, Hawkins improvisational style was not a fixed entity. He strives to move away from the bad habit of ‘slap tooting, and began to experiment with less conventional soloing techniques. “Hawkins was beginning to experiment successfully with the use of 9th chords and augmented runs as part of his improvisations, often showing his confidence by including ‘surprising notes’. “(Clinton 34). Hawkins began to put a European emphasis on his improvisations in his emphasis of the weak and strong beats (Williams 8).
During the ass’s Hawkins was the top tenor saxophonist in New York, and many young sax players copied his smooth and often tonic style. Bud Freeman was about the only tenor who didn’t sound like a replica of the hard-toned Hawkins”(Yawn). Although Colleen’s style became outdated by the ass’s with the entrance of revolutionary tenor saxophonist Lester Young (Yawn), his style was still a huge stepping stone in the history of improvisational Jazz. “Jazz improvisation has traveled a long road of development…
This evolution [was] instigated by the titans of jazz history of the last 40 odd years: Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young… Etc”. Hawkins added much of his own creative musical input to his music and o the sass’s Jazz scene in New York. Adolph Sax invented the Tenor sax for the purpose of being a military band instrument. As the tenor sax migrated to middle class America it was adopted as a marching band instrument. Coleman Hawkins was the first musician to play Jazz on the Tenor sax, and he was certainly not the last (Yawn). The prelude to Jazz tenor saxophone originates from the Wilbur Sweetmeat Orchestra. The sound quality is quite primitive… There seem to be no tenor sax solos” (Eveners 11). Sweetmeat’s orchestra played prearranged music, leaving no room for improvisation, which means hat their music cannot be called Jazz, and falls into the category of ragtime, which is largely prearranged. Therefore, when Coleman Hawkins Joined Fletcher Henderson orchestra, the Jazz tenor saxophone was created (Eveners 11). Since that point, there has been a plethora of tenor saxophonist’s in Jazz.
Many, like Chlorate and Sonny Rollins would become extremely influential Jazz musicians of the bebop era. Body and Soul was Coleman Hawkins’ most influential song, and also marked a turning point in Jazz (Moore). The song was a commercial success and was enormously popular among Jazz audiences(Moore), however, critics also recognize the song as a musical and improvisational masterpiece. “Right away, the Hawkins version of “Body and Soul” became one of the essential documents of Jazz. It was not only a hit on Jukeboxes until the sass, but also a textbook lesson in ballad playing. (Moore). The song ‘Body and Soul’ was originally a Tin Pan Alley hit, and was very understated, and the songs chorus is played twice through while Hawkins improvises (oxford). The nature of Hawks solo is what makes this song a masterpiece. In Body and Soul, Hawkins did not use standard blues riffing, which collects each part of the solo into even, neat sections. Instead Hawkins toyed with “Sharp cornered phrases and endless lines that were the Jazz equivalent of run on sentences”. Apart from the first 4 bars, Hawkins only rarely alludes to the melody of the original song.
Instead he essentially left his solo entirely free form, which was relatively uncommon at the time in swing musical . “He danced at the upper extremes of chords, foreshadowing the altered harmonies that later were so important to bebop. But he was hardly academic. His spry, seductive tone gave every phrase an unmistakable passion. “l . Body and Soul was not only a masterpiece, it also hinted at the beginning of a new era in Jazz. “When the record first came out, well, everybody said I was playing the wrong notes. It was funny to me”l .
This recording was a step for Jazz towards a more free form, tonic, and creative art form called bop. The remarkable thing is that Hawkins made this step while retaining mass appeal. In the ass’s and ass’s bop began to replace swing as the main popular form of Jazz, although it took on a distinctively different role as a counterculture art form. Most swing musicians resented this new, edgy Jazz, but Hawkins encouraged it to such a large extent that he made an effort to systematically employ and collaborate with all of the up and coming Jazz artists. Unlike others of his generation, whose attitude towards bop ranged from resentment to hostility to bemused indifference, Hawkins championed the music, earning him a degree of loyalty’ 2. Hawkins was a role model to young bebop prodigies such as Kenny Clarke, Oscar Petrified, Fats Innovator, Max Roach and especially Theologies Monk, who remained a lifelong friend of Hawkins till his death. It was not that these new up and coming Jazz artists were looking to model their musical style after Hawkins’.
Rather, they looked at Hawkins commitment to improvisation and craftsmanship and the extraordinary achievements that he’d made, being a wealthy, self made black musician in mid-century America. A 1946 recording session called ‘Bean and the Boys’; which included Fats Innovator, Milt Jackson and Max Roach; paid tribute to Hawkins relationship with his young propgso. In 1944 Hawkins was involved with what is known as the first bop recording session with Dizzy Gillespie and Don Bypass. Although this classification may be somewhat arbitrary, there is no doubt that Hawkins was hugely important to early bop.
His 1948 recording ‘Picasso’, a 3 minute tenor sax solo with no supporting instruments, was a creative step for Jazz as the first unaccompanied sax solo recorded. In this recording Hawkins expanded on many of musical ideas, which he pioneered in ‘Body and Soul’, and by taking out the rhythm section Hawkins is able to play an even more free form’ solo which is not locked into a time signature or rhythmic schemes. Although Hawkins was not himself part of the bop generation, he retainer was an instigator and a catalyst of the bebop revolution. The Peculiar combination of personal traits and musical abilities that marked Hawkins – steely ambition, a strong intellect, and virtuosity – characterized the bebop revolution”l . At the start of the sass’s, Lester Young had become a much bigger influence on young tenor saxophone players than Coleman Hawkins was. However, Hawkins stuck including a quintet with Roy Leering. Around this time Hawkins image and influence went through a resurgence period, when Sonny Rollins, the up and coming bebop tenor saxophonist, claimed that Hawkins was his main musical influence .
In an interview Rollins said, “Coleman Hawkins had a more intellectual approach maybe to music. He played a lot of very difficult things. So he became my idol”2. Like Hawkins, Rollins went on to have a long, successful career, which was characterized by many of the same qualities that Hawkins possessed. Listening to Rollins and Hawkins recordings side by side displays the distinct influence that Hawk had on Rollins. Sonny has a distinctive style of swing that takes elements from the sass’s Harlem sound that Hawkins was a part of and Rollins grew up with. However, similar to
Hawkins, Rollins style did evolve greatly over his career. “Rollins has a seemingly bottomless reservoir of musical knowledge (ranging from Jazz standards and pop, to folk songs and classical music)”3. The most important trait, which was passed on from one tenor sax great to another, was the truly progressive nature of Jazz. “Coleman Hawkins”, Sonny Rollins said recently, “was of [Jazz’s] most prominent ‘Role Models’: The prototypical progressive Jazz musician. Coleman Hawkins was the foremost tenor sax player of the ass’s and ass’s, and played with some of the most influential bands and musicians of the swing real .