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Lew Tabackin: Hawkins Tribute at the Terrace Gallery

Listen From 1981: Bassist Richard Davis on Hawkins 1939 Recording, 'Body and Soul'

After the brass bands of New Orleans, one of the next big sounds in jazz was very radio-friendly. Virtually from scratch, Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969) developed a BIG, full, passionate, swinging tenor saxophone sound. Try to imagine American music without it!

Coleman Hawkins. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Hawkins was a man of many firsts. In the 1920s, he was a member of the first jazz orchestra, the Fletcher Henderson orchestra. In the '30s, he was one of the first to make a career move to Europe. In 1939, Hawkins came back and had a huge hit, with a very swinging solo on his recording of Body and Soul. Hawkins won the Esquire magazine Gold Award annually from 1944 through 1947, and the Metronome magazine top award from 1945 through 1947. Hawkins was also the first to play unaccompanied solos, and first to accept Thelonious Monk and other up-and-coming beboppers. In the 1940s, many swing players were unimpressed by bebop. Hawkins' career lasted into the mid 1960s.

Library of Congress Photo

Lew Tabackin came to New York some 40 years after Hawkins. Lew met Hawkins in a funny way. A third saxophonist, Zoot Sims, took Lew to Hawkins' apartment. Lew was young and new in town. Hawkins was frail then, but at the time, Lew was heavy.

Lew Tabackin

When they sat down on the sofa together, the back legs gave away and the two men and the couch tipped over, feet waving in the air. Lew was terribly embarrassed and Hawkins knew it, so he shrugged it off with the comment "I guess I'll have to get a new couch," and then with a wink he blamed the whole thing on his friend Major Holley, the bass player, who was also visiting at the time. The brotherhood of sax men was unshaken. It takes a substantial player with a passion and a sound to salute Coleman Hawkins, and we have our man in Lew Tabackin, abetted by an outstanding trio.


"Hackensack"/"Riff Tide" by Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins
"Self-Portrait of the Bean" by Duke Ellington for Hawkins
"Hanid" ("Dinah" spelled backwards) by Hank Jones
"Body and Soul" by Johnny Green and Edward Heyman
"Stuffy" by Coleman Hawkins

Lew Tabackin, tenor saxophone
Mulgrew Miller, piano
Peter Washington, bass
Mark Taylor, drums


  • Lew Tabackin Site

  • Coleman Hawkins Biography

  • Kennedy Center Jazz: the Fabulous Forties

  • Richard Davis Page

    Kennedy Center Jazz: Kevin Struthers, Sean Costello

    Big Mo Record: Chris Weal, Drew Doucette. Music mix by Duke Markos

    Our producer is Becca Pulliam; the Technical Director is Duke Markos, and our executive producer is Thurston Briscoe III, at WBGO Jazz 88 in Newark.

    Copyright 2007 NPR