HAWKINS, Coleman: Bean At The Met
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COLEMAN HAWKINS Vol.3
'Bean At The Met' Original Recordings 1943-1945
Coleman Hawkins was the first important tenorsaxophonistin jazz history. One of the moreremarkable aspects to his career, in addition tothe fact that he completely paved his own waywithout any predecessors to learn from, is thathe was always a modern soloist, whether it was1924 or 1964. Famous for his knowledge ofchords and harmonies, Hawkins could be a bitold-fashioned rhythmically but his choice ofnotes was always advanced.
Born 21 November 1904 in St. Joseph,Missouri, Hawkins had piano lessons when hewas five, switched to cello two years later and atnine started playing tenor-sax. At the time thehorn had no real history or legacy, being usedprimarily in vaudeville as a novelty instrument.
Hawkins developed his own huge sound andharmonically rich improvisations. He was a professionalby 1917 when he was twelve and workedin a Kansas City theatre pit band in 1921 wherehe was discovered by the pioneering blues singerMamie Smith. Hawkins played with Smith's JazzHounds (with whom he made his recordingdebut) for two years. In 1923 he went out on hisown, freelancing in New York and making hisfirst recordings with Fletcher Henderson.
In January 1924, Hawkins officially joined theFletcher Henderson Orchestra, being one of thestar soloists for the next ten years. WhileHawkins was always technically skilled, he oftenutilised slap tonguing, staccato runs and otherdated effects in his solos. That all changed whenLouis Armstrong joined the band later in theyear. Due to the inspiration of Armstrong,Hawkins learned how to use space, switched tolegato phrasing and became a jazz giant. His1925 improvisation on \Stampede" is consideredthe first major tenor-sax solo on record.
By 1934, Hawkins was frustrated withHenderson's lack of business sense and the factthat the band's success had stalled. He movedto Europe for five years, playing all over thecontinent and being recognised as an artist.
Hawkins returned to the U.S. shortly beforeWorld War II started and, although challengedfor supremacy by the softer-toned tenor LesterYoung, his recording of "Body And Soul" showedthat Hawkins was still a major force.
After leading a short-lived big band in 1940,Hawkins became a fixture on 52nd Street wherehe led combos. The 1943-45 period covered inthis collection is particularly intriguing forHawkins is heard with a wide variety of stylists.
Although thought of as a major swing player,Hawkins encouraged the younger generation ofbeboppers and often used them on hisrecordings. His harmonic knowledge made itpossible for him to fit right in no matter howmodern the music.
This collection begins with two numbersfrom late in 1943 when Hawkins was 39.
Stumpy is an original based on the chords of"Whispering" (which a year later would be thebasis for Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High").
Pianist Ellis Larkins and trumpeter Bill Colemanhave solos before Hawkins enters, sounding quiteexuberant and completely in control. Anuptempo boogie-blues, Hawkins' Barrelhouse,has fine swing playing from bassist OscarPettiford, drummer Cozy Cole, Larkins, guitaristAl Casey, clarinettist Andy Fitzgerald, Colemanand finally Hawkins who riffs away passionatelythroughout the dixielandish ensembles.
Moving into 1944, Hawkins is teamed withthe great swing trumpeter Roy Eldridge, a fieryand competitive improviser who always pushedHawk to play at his most heated. Co-starring on'S Wonderful, I'm In The Mood For Love and anoriginal riff piece (Bean At The Met) that isbased on "How High The Moon" is the definitiveswing pianist Teddy Wilson, whose impeccabletaste keeps the exciting music grounded. Wilsonis also an important part of the accompanimentbehind Hawkins on his medium-tempo balladfeature Imagination. Listen to how the tenordigs into each chord, coming up with fresh ideas.
In February 1944 Coleman Hawkins led whatis considered to be the first two bebop recordingdates. Hawkins played as he always did but themodern backup group, which included 26-yearold Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Max Roach, waspushing the music far beyond swing. ReportedlyCharlie Parker was also supposed to be on thissession but he failed to show up. Hawkins digsinto Gillespie's Woody'n You and BuddJohnson's Bu-De-Daht with ease while Dizzytakes brief futuristic solos. Hawkins isshowcased throughout Yesterdays, a standardwhose sophisticated chord changes alsoappealed to Art Tatum. Disorder At The Borderis one of the tenor's catchier originals and theblues inspires Gillespie to create his most heatedsolo of these sessions, showing that he was readyin 1944 to lead the mainstream of jazz to bebop.
Feeling Zero has an unusual melody and chordstructure, worthy of one of Duke Ellington's1930s mood pieces. Hawkins as usual has nodifficulty ripping through the chords.
The next four selections feature Hawkinsback with a swing quintet. A jubilant version ofBeyond The Blue Horizon, a lightly swingingUnder A Blanket Of Blue and an unlikely In AShanty In Old Shanty Town (best-knownpreviously as a pop song) not only have featuredchoruses by Wilson and trumpeter Buck Clayton(who was formerly with the Count BasieOrchestra) but spots for the humming andbowed bass of the witty Slam Stewart. A similardate from the following day has Charlie Shaversin Clayton's place, stealing solo honours with anexplosive chorus on his blues El Salon DeGutbucket. Even sixty years later, the music's joy,sincerity and passion are timeless.
In late-1944 Coleman Hawkins put togethera modern quintet that teamed his tenor with theboppish trumpeter Howard McGhee (the missinglink between Roy Eldridge and the up-andcomingFats Navarro), pianist Sir CharlesThompson, bassist Eddie Robinson and theunderrated drummer Denzil Best. The grouphelped introduce bebop to the West Coast and(with Oscar Pettiford on bass) appeared in thefilm The Crimson Canary, playing one number.
The Coleman Hawkins Quintet performs fiveoriginals, all of which have concise solos from theleader, McGhee and Thompson. Keep in mindthat these boppish performances predate thefirst joint recordings of Charlie Parker and DizzyGillespie and would have made a bigger impacthad they been released by a larger label than thetiny Asch company. Sportsman's Hop is partlybased on "Lullaby In Rhythm" while LadiesLullaby is a well-disguised "Diga Diga Do," asong played by Duke Ellington in the late 1920s.
Both tunes are full of boppish ideas both in theensembles and the solos. McGhee's hauntingReady For Love is a highlight and a song wellworth reviving. Night Ramble is based on afavourite Hawkins phrase as is Bean Stalking.
The latter piece has a McGhee solo that is clearlyinspired by Gillespie.
It is difficult to believe, while hearing suchnumbers as Woody'n You and Ladies' Lullaby,that the tenor-saxophonist had been a memberof Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds in 1921. But it isequally difficult to believe that Hawkins would infuture years hold his own with the likes of SonnyRollins, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk(whom he had hired as his pianist for a fewmonths in 1944).
But Coleman Hawkins was in his owncategory and his career would remain on aremarkably high level until the mid-1960s,always eternally modern.
- Scott Yanow, author of 8 jazz books including JazzOn Film, Swing, Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz OnRecord 1917-76"