The man whose innovations elevated saxophone to its rightful place in jazz music is finally getting the retrospective he deserves, in a manner that only Mosaic can deliver. Thanks to our "limited edition" policy and the fact that rights to recordings on a host of labels have come to be owned by Sony Music, we are able to present a collection that crosses original label boundaries to define what was truly the best. We're calling it "Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions 1922-1947" and it covers Hawkins as a leader and as a sideman.
Most of Hawkins' contemporaries bitterly resisted the mid-1940s bebop revolution, with its harmonic and rhythmic innovations, but Hawkins not only encouraged the upstart music but also performed frequently with its chief practitioners. As early as 1944 with modernists Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Oscar Pettiford he recorded "Woody'n You, " probably the first bop recording ever. In 1945, a watershed year for the new music, he performed and recorded in California with modern trumpeter Howard McGhee.
His long tenure, begun in 1946, with the Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) tour brought him inevitably into musical contact with virtually all the top-flight younger players. Also, as a leader on his own American and European engagements in the late 1940s and early 1950s he enlisted the talents of such outstanding young musicians as trumpeters Fats Navarro and Miles Davis, trombonist J.J. Johnson, and vibraphonist Milt Jackson. Hawkins' democratic acceptance of the newer jazz idiom is admirable and somewhat surprising considering the difficulties he had in adapting his own sharply-defined style to it. There is frequently a rhythmic stiffness in his attempts to integrate his sound with theirs, and he thrived best in that period when he collaborated with his fellow swing era stalwarts, playing more traditional material.
He recorded a version of "Body and Soul" in 1940 that became his most famous record. Hawkins was one of the few Hot Jazz musicians who made the shift to Be Bop in the Forties. He hired Thelonious Monk for his quartet in 1944 and led an early bop recording session the same year which included Dizzy Gillespie. He also hired Miles Davis and Max Roach to play on his bands early in their careers. In 1946 he recorded with J.J. Johnson and Fats Navarro. By the early 1950s, the innovations of Lester Young and Charlie Parker made Hawkins' style seem a bit old fashioned. However Hawkins was able to adapt to the changing currents in Jazz again, when he teamed up with Roy Eldridge. Throughout the rest Fifties and Sixties he appeared on records made by Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane. In the early 1960s Coleman Hawkins recorded with Duke Ellington, and made a record with Sonny Rollins.
Tenor sax legend Coleman Hawkins performing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.