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Jazz Articles


Tenor Saxophone

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Invented in the early 1840s, the saxophone was a relative latecomer to music--and to jazz. But starting in the mid-1920s, with the rise of the big bands, the instrument slowly but steadily evolved from a vaudeville novelty into a staple in the mainstream of jazz. Of the different varieties of saxophone, the tenor and the alto have been the most widely used, the baritone and soprano somewhat less so. During the decade, Coleman Hawkins appeared as the first important tenor ...


Coleman Hawkins

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Although Adolphe Sax actually invented the saxophone, in the jazz world the title “Father of the Tenor Saxophone" became justly associated with Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969), not only an inventive jazz giant but also the founder of a whole dynasty of saxophone players. Before Hawkins, the saxophone (itself “born" in 1846) was mainly a favorite in marching bands and something of a novelty instrument in circus acts and vaudeville shows. Indeed, at age 16, Coleman started out with such a vaudeville ...


Love for Sale and Other Essays

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This article appears from the story “For Bean" Love for Sale and Other Essays by Clifford Thompson (Autumn House Press, 2013). I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a semi-detached brick house in Washington, D.C. The house from which it was not detached belonged to my aunt and uncle; my great-aunt and great-uncle lived in the house on the other side of them; and still another aunt and uncle were up the street. People ...


Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk

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Recorded in England in 1958, this little-known session, originally released on the obscure Felsted label, is an inarguable gem. Perhaps even the word “masterpiece" is not too much of a stretch. It's doubtful that the putative “father of the tenor saxophone," Coleman Hawkins, made a better recording in the age of long-playing records, and it's just as unlikely that a better example of the impeccable touch and melodic inventiveness of the prolific Hank Jones can be found on any other ...


In Europe: London, Paris & Brussels

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Coleman Hawkins In Europe: London, Paris & Brussels Impro Jazz 2008

In the '20s, Coleman Hawkins (1904-69) established the tenor sax as a prominent soloing option in jazz, creating the first template for the dominant sound of the instrument. The powerful tone, deep swagger and churning rococo harmonic attack of his approach continued to be an influence long after it was eclipsed by the smoother, thinner toned, more rubato style of Lester ...


Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins

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This extraordinary 1962 session was the realization of a promise made thirty years earlier between the maestro, Duke Ellington, and the father of the tenor saxophone, Coleman Hawkins, that they would some day make a record together. Released a mere two months ahead of the largely iconic Ellington-Coltrane meeting, the earlier date is distinguished by the creative energies and commitment both men bring to the proceedings, with Ellington producing a scaled-down version of one of his best bands and Hawkins ...


Coleman Hawkins: The Hawk Relaxes

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Coleman Hawkins had every right to rest on his laurels by the time of this 1961 recording. But The Hawk Relaxes finds the father of the tenor saxophone--aka Hawk or Bean--doing anything but clinging to his perch. He may no longer be soaring in search of prey but he's gliding on buoyant and vital air-streams, performing to near-perfection an all-ballad program that rewards the attentive listener at each turn.

When the history of the tenor saxophone was being ...


Coleman Hawkins: At Ease with Coleman Hawkins

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In this crazy run-around world where we never really have time to stop and appreciate all the good things in our lives, it is pretty hard to make time for Coleman Hawkins. But that is precisely why it is so important to do so. They really never invented a saxophone player better than him, and very few musicians have ever gotten closer to what jazz is supposed to be.

At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, originally released in 1960, is like ...

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