REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » HAWKINS, Coleman: Bean At The Met (1943-1945)
Coleman Hawkins was the first important tenorsaxophonist
in jazz history. One of the more
remarkable aspects to his career, in addition to
the fact that he completely paved his own way
without any predecessors to learn from, is that
he was always a modern soloist, whether it was
1924 or 1964. Famous for his knowledge of
chords and harmonies, Hawkins could be a bit
old-fashioned rhythmically but his choice of
notes was always advanced.
Born 21 November 1904 in St. Joseph,
Missouri, Hawkins had piano lessons when he
was five, switched to cello two years later and at
nine started playing tenor-sax. At the time the
horn had no real history or legacy, being used
primarily in vaudeville as a novelty instrument.
Hawkins developed his own huge sound and
harmonically rich improvisations. He was a professional
by 1917 when he was twelve and worked
in a Kansas City theatre pit band in 1921 where
he was discovered by the pioneering blues singer
Mamie Smith. Hawkins played with Smith’s Jazz
Hounds (with whom he made his recording
debut) for two years. In 1923 he went out on his
own, freelancing in New York and making his
first recordings with Fletcher Henderson.
In January 1924, Hawkins officially joined the
Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, being one of the
star soloists for the next ten years. While
Hawkins was always technically skilled, he often
utilised slap tonguing, staccato runs and other
dated effects in his solos. That all changed when
Louis Armstrong joined the band later in the
year. Due to the inspiration of Armstrong,
Hawkins learned how to use space, switched to
legato phrasing and became a jazz giant. His
1925 improvisation on “Stampede” is considered
the first major tenor-sax solo on record.
By 1934, Hawkins was frustrated with
Henderson’s lack of business sense and the fact
that the band’s success had stalled. He moved
to Europe for five years, playing all over the
continent and being recognised as an artist.
Hawkins returned to the U.S. shortly before
World War II started and, although challenged
for supremacy by the softer-toned tenor Lester
Young, his recording of “Body And Soul” showed
that Hawkins was still a major force.
After leading a short-lived big band in 1940,
Hawkins became a fixture on 52nd Street where
he led combos. The 1943-45 period covered in
this collection is particularly intriguing for
Hawkins is heard with a wide variety of stylists.
Although thought of as a major swing player,
Hawkins encouraged the younger generation of
beboppers and often used them on his
recordings. His harmonic knowledge made it
possible for him to fit right in no matter how
modern the music.
This collection begins with two numbers
from late in 1943 when Hawkins was 39.
Stumpy is an original based on the chords of
“Whispering” (which a year later would be the
basis for Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High”).
Pianist Ellis Larkins and trumpeter Bill Coleman
have solos before Hawkins enters, sounding quite
exuberant and completely in control. An
uptempo boogie-blues, Hawkins’ Barrelhouse,
has fine swing playing from bassist Oscar
Pettiford, drummer Cozy Cole, Larkins, guitarist
Al Casey, clarinettist Andy Fitzgerald, Coleman
and finally Hawkins who riffs away passionately
throughout the dixielandish ensembles.
Moving into 1944, Hawkins is teamed with
the great swing trumpeter Roy Eldridge, a fiery
and competitive improviser who always pushed
Hawk to play at his most heated. Co-starring on
’S Wonderful, I’m In The Mood For Love and an
original riff piece (Bean At The Met) that is
based on “How High The Moon” is the definitive
swing pianist Teddy Wilson, whose impeccable
taste keeps the exciting music grounded. Wilson
is also an important part of the accompaniment
behind Hawkins on his medium-tempo ballad
feature Imagination. Listen to how the tenor
digs into each chord, coming up with fresh ideas.
In February 1944 Coleman Hawkins led what
is considered to be the first two bebop recording
dates. Hawkins played as he always did but the
modern backup group, which included 26-year
old Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Max Roach, was
pushing the music far beyond swing. Reportedly
Charlie Parker was also supposed to be on this
session but he failed to show up. Hawkins digs
into Gillespie’s Woody’n You and Budd
Johnson’s Bu-De-Daht with ease while Dizzy
takes brief futuristic solos. Hawkins is
showcased throughout Yesterdays, a standard
whose sophisticated chord changes also
appealed to Art Tatum. Disorder At The Border
is one of the tenor’s catchier originals and the
blues inspires Gillespie to create his most heated
solo of these sessions, showing that he was ready
in 1944 to lead the mainstream of jazz to bebop.
Feeling Zero has an unusual melody and chord
structure, worthy of one of Duke Ellington’s
1930s mood pieces. Hawkins as usual has no
difficulty ripping through the chords.
The next four selections feature Hawkins
back with a swing quintet. A jubilant version of
Beyond The Blue Horizon, a lightly swinging
Under A Blanket Of Blue and an unlikely In A
Shanty In Old Shanty Town (best-known
previously as a pop song) not only have featured
choruses by Wilson and trumpeter Buck Clayton
(who was formerly with the Count Basie
Orchestra) but spots for the humming and
bowed bass of the witty Slam Stewart. A similar
date from the following day has Charlie Shavers
in Clayton’s place, stealing solo honours with an
explosive chorus on his blues El Salon De
Gutbucket. Even sixty years later, the music’s joy,
sincerity and passion are timeless.
In late-1944 Coleman Hawkins put together
a modern quintet that teamed his tenor with the
boppish trumpeter Howard McGhee (the missing
link between Roy Eldridge and the up-andcoming
Fats Navarro), pianist Sir Charles
Thompson, bassist Eddie Robinson and the
underrated drummer Denzil Best. The group
helped introduce bebop to the West Coast and
(with Oscar Pettiford on bass) appeared in the
film The Crimson Canary, playing one number.
The Coleman Hawkins Quintet performs five
originals, all of which have concise solos from the
leader, McGhee and Thompson. Keep in mind
that these boppish performances predate the
first joint recordings of Charlie Parker and Dizzy
Gillespie and would have made a bigger impact
had they been released by a larger label than the
tiny Asch company. Sportsman’s Hop is partly
based on “Lullaby In Rhythm” while Ladies
Lullaby is a well-disguised “Diga Diga Do,” a
song played by Duke Ellington in the late 1920s.
Both tunes are full of boppish ideas both in the
ensembles and the solos. McGhee’s haunting
Ready For Love is a highlight and a song well
worth reviving. Night Ramble is based on a
favourite Hawkins phrase as is Bean Stalking.
The latter piece has a McGhee solo that is clearly
inspired by Gillespie.
It is difficult to believe, while hearing such
numbers as Woody’n You and Ladies’ Lullaby,
that the tenor-saxophonist had been a member
of Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds in 1921. But it is
equally difficult to believe that Hawkins would in
future years hold his own with the likes of Sonny
Rollins, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk
(whom he had hired as his pianist for a few
months in 1944).
But Coleman Hawkins was in his own
category and his career would remain on a
remarkably high level until the mid-1960s,
always eternally modern.
– Scott Yanow, author of 8 jazz books including Jazz
On Film, Swing, Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On
Last Albums Viewed
HAWKINS, Coleman: Bean At The Met (1943-1945)