Coleman Hawkins established the tenor sax as an important voice in jazz and remained its foremost authority for forty years. Hawkins was born in Missouri and first played piano and cello before moving to the tenor sax at the age of nine. He studied music at Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas and played professionally in Kansas City before being signed in 1921 by Mamie Smith to become a part of her Jazz Hounds. After making his first recordings with Smith in 1923, Hawkins moved on to other bands in New York, eventually joining the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1924, where he stayed on and off for the next ten years. While with Henderson's outfit, Hawkins was greatly influenced by Louis Armstrong who joined the band for a while.
By the early '30s, Hawkins had begun to develop the deep, rich tone that he displayed for the rest of his life. By 1939, he had formed his own group when he recorded the classic rendition of Body and Soul, one of jazz's most enduring milestones. In 1948, Hawkins recorded his own composition, Picasso, the first recording of an unaccompanied saxophone solo. During the next three decades he toured and recorded with many groups including Norman Grantz's Jazz At The Philharmonic series. In his later years, Hawkins recorded and played with such jazz greats as Benny Carter, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk.
CDs in Print
- Coleman Hawkins' recordings on CD