[Dixielandjazz] Dixielandjazz Digest, Vol 82, Issue 23

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 12 13:24:20 PDT 2009

> "Ken Mathieson" <ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk> wrote
> 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?

Dear Ken:

Interesting. I cannot find the source but will keep trying. Note,  
however, what Jazz Saxophonist Joe Lovano had to say about the solo on  
USA's National Public Radio:

NPR interviewer: Saxophonist Joe Lovano says that Hawkins' dedication  
to improvisation is a legacy perhaps even more important than the  
endlessly studied notes and inflections of the original recording.

Lovano: "That really taught me a lot about trying to learn how to  
improvise and to be creative with the material and not be a repeater,"  
Lovano says, "because throughout his whole career, he didn't repeat  
that solo. That was it. He recorded it once, and then, every time he  
played that tune, it was a new expression on it, you know? And that's  
what really separated him from everybody else, because he was so free  
on his horn and so creative."

I was lucky enough to play with Hawkins on about 9 or 10 gigs in  
1960/61, with several different bands. Body and Soul was always  
requested so the bands played it on each gig. And if memory serves me  
right,  Hawkins played it differently each time. I think he tried to  
fit his improv to the particular rhythm section he was working with.  
The original rhythm is rather stilted compared to the looser modern  
rhythm sections.

Circa 1958 he made an album called Body & Soul Revisited. His solo on  
the title track is quite different from the 1939 original. Maybe, in  
part, because he was backed by the Tony Scott all stars and Scott  
takes (IMO) a wonderfully different approach to the tune on his solo.


Steve Barbone


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