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Mon, 11.21.1904

Coleman Hawkins, a jazz tenor legend

Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins, an African American jazz composer and saxophonist, was born on this date in 1904.

Coleman Randolph Hawkins was from St. Joseph, MO. His mother was a schoolteacher and organist and introduced him to music. Hawkins started playing piano at five, but later switched to cello and the saxophone. In 1921, he was playing with the 12th Street Theater in Kansas City while studying music at the industrial and educational institute and Washburn College in Topeka, KS. Beginning in 1922, he played with Fletcher Henderson's band, recording with Black Swan Records. It made him a star and continued for 11.

Hawkins toured Europe for five years, playing with groups from Belgium, France, and Denmark. His most important records were "One Hour" and “Body and Soul,” which made him and the tenor sax landmarks of the 20th century. In the 1940s, Hawkins put together a big band and performed with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, and others.

In his later years, Coleman Hawkins continued to appear at jazz festivals and clubs. Liver problems and alcohol took their toll and he died in 1969 at the age of 65.

All That Jazz: The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ISBN 0-76519-953-X

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