Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blue and Soul or Hawk and Evans!

Everybody talks about how Coleman Hawkins' Body &Soul (1939) changed the history of recorded jazz forever and widely established the tenor saxophone as an instrument of pure self-expression for the years to come. However, people hardly mention an ancestor to the song, Blue & Sentimental; a groundbreaking record by Herschel Evans, recorded with Count Basie Orchestra in 1938. According to Count Basie's autobiography, Good Morning Blues, co-written by Albert Murray, when Hawkins returned from his long stay in Europe, he wasn't aware of Herschel Evans' passing earlier that year (he was only 29). Basie remembers:

“Coleman Hawkins came back from Europe. He had been over there for about five years, and like quite a few people, he just did make it back home before World War II broke out that September. He was met on the pier by more than five hundred musicians and fans, and there was also some talk about him forming his own band with MCA as his booking agent. I do know what he did as soon as he dropped his luggage off at where he was staying. He came right down there to the Famous Door [club] looking for Herschel Evans.

Blue &Sentimental
He had heard that record of 'Blue & Sentimental' in Europe, and it had knocked him out. But for some strange reason the news of Herschel's death, in February, hadn't reached him. So he came straight down there to check him out again, because of course he already knew Herschel from those times in Kansas City when he used to come in there with Fletcher Henderson's band, which means that he also knew that he was Herschel's main man.

Herschel Evans (left) with Buck Clayton
Anyway, he came straight down there, and naturally everybody was happy to see him, but the main thing he was really interested in was Herschel on 'Blue & Sentimental.' Everybody was coming up asking him about various things about overseas and what he was planning to do, and all the time he was asking about Herschel.

'Where is Herschel? I want to hear what the cat's doing down here. That was some record. What's he doing now? Let me hear what this cat's blowing now.'

Body & Soul

That's how he found out that Herschel had passed away, and the news hit him pretty hard. That really put quite a damper on his big homecoming celebration. According to Jo Jones, Hawk sat around in his room for days playing 'Blue & Sentimental’ over and over. I don’t really know about that from personal observation, and I don’t know whether he actually had Herschel in mind when he cut ‘Body & Soul,’ as Jo Jones says, but I do know that he had been very impressed with ‘Blue & Sentimental’ just before he recorded ‘Body & Soul’ that October.”



  1. Great piece. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that our heroes were humans beings and had heroes of their own.

    Rich Keith, GM
    Pure Jazz Radio

  2. For more of Evans' effect on Hawk, check out Hocus Pocus done just after the famous KC jam session where Lester supposedly ran Hawkins out of town. Seems the music tells us the only thing on Hawk's mind was Evans' beautiful legato way of playing. Bring on the Savorys.

  3. Thanks Anonymous. What a coincidence 'cause I have "Hocus Pocus" (Hawk with Fletcher) in my playlist of the week.