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.
|Herschel Evans (left) with Buck Clayton|
'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.”