[Dixielandjazz] Hawk & Body and Soul

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Mon Oct 12 05:42:31 PDT 2009

Hi All,

With all the talk about the above, I've been trying to recall the source of a brief article I once read about the genesis of that classic performance. I recall it was written by a musician who lived in the same building as Hawk in the period prior to the famous recording. He said it just about drove him nuts, because Hawk developed the solo over a three month period and would practise it every day. By the end of that period, the solo was perfected and committed to memory, not just by Hawk, but also by the other musician, so when the record came out, this musician's reaction was "what's all the fuss about?" In working out his solo in advance, Hawk was following a tradition that goes back to the beginning of jazz: Jelly Roll, Louis, Bechet and numerous others worked up many of their solos and then stuck rigidly to them other than for details of ornamentation, which doesn't diminish their artistic achievements in any way.

I thought the source of this story was Ira Gitler's great book Swing to Bop, which tells the story of that transition in the words of the musicians themselves, however, when I checked the book, I could find no trace of it. Does anyone recognise the story and can anyone advise the source?  

Incidentally, Gitler's contribution was to edit the interviews into a coherent sequence and provide a commentary where needed. This he did expertly and as a result it's one of the best jazz books ever simply because the story is told by people who actually understood the subject matter inside out and were part of the transition themselves. I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially musicians, as a remarkably factual history, unclouded by personal judgements.


Ken Mathieson

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