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Famous Like Me > Composer > H > Coleman Hawkins

Profile of Coleman Hawkins on Famous Like Me

Name: Coleman Hawkins  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 21st November 1904
Place of Birth: St. Joseph, Missouri, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Randolph Hawkins, nicknamed "Hawk" and sometimes "Bean", (November 21, 1904 - May 19, 1969) was a prominent jazz tenor saxophone musician. He was an important pioneer on the instrument, and many consider him the father of jazz saxophone.

Coleman Hawkins was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri in 1904. Some out-of-date sources say 1901, but there is no evidence to prove such an early date. He was named Coleman after his mother Cordelia's maiden name. He attended high school in Chicago, then in Topeka, Kansas.

He later stated that he studied harmony and composition for two years at Washburn College in Topeka. In his youth he played piano and cello, and started playing sax at age 9; by age 16 he was playing professionally.

Coleman Hawkins (incorrectly spelled 'Haskins' in the caption) pictured in the Topeka High School orchestra from the 1921 yearbook.

He joined Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds in 1921 with whom he toured through 1923, at which time he settled in New York City. Hawkins joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, which whom he played through 1934, sometimes doubling on clarinet and bass saxophone. Hawkins's playing changed significantly during Louis Armstrong's tenure with the Henderson Orchestra.

During the mid to late 1930s, Hawkins toured Europe as a soloist, playing with Jack Hylton, Django Reinhardt and many other groups until returning to the USA in 1939. He then recorded a seminal jazz solo on the pop standard "Body and Soul", a landmark equivalent to Armstrong's "West End Blues".

After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a big band he led a combo at Kelly's Stables on Manhattan's famed 52nd Street, using Thelonius Monk, Oscar Pettiford, Miles Davis, and Max Roach as sidemen. He was leader on the first ever bebop recording session with Dizzy Gillespie and Don Byas. Later he toured with Howard McGhee and recorded with J.J. Johnson and Fats Navarro. He also toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic.

After 1948 Hawkins divided his time between New York and Europe, making numerous freelance recordings, including with Duke Ellington in 1962. In the 1960s he appeared regularly at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan.

During his long career Hawkins was always inventive and seeking new challenges. He directly influenced many bebop performers, and later in his career, recorded or performed with such adventurous musicians as Sonny Rollins, who considered him his main influence, and John Coltrane. He also performed with more traditional musicians, such as Henry "Red" Allen and Roy Eldridge, with whom he appeared at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. In the 1960s, he recorded with Duke Ellington.

What was up to date in jazz changed radically over the decades. When record collectors would play his early 1920s recordings during Hawkins's later years he would sometimes deny his presence on them, since the playing on the old records sounded so dated.

In his later years, Hawkins began to drink heavily and stopped recording (his last recording was in late 1966). He died of pneumonia in 1969 and is interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx


  • "As far as I'm concerned, I think Coleman Hawkins was the President first, right?" Tenorman Lester Young, who was called "Pres", 1959 interview with Jazz Review.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Coleman Hawkins