Today In Jazz

Coleman Hawkins on “Body and Soul”

October 11

On this day in 1939, Coleman Hawkins recorded one of the most influential and popular jazz solos ever played, on the song “Body and Soul.” Having just returned from several years in Europe, Hawkins was thought to be past his prime (he turned 35 that year) and to have been superseded by his disciples (Chu Berry/Ben Webster/Don Byas) and/or his main rival, Lester Young.

Hawkins took his band into the studio, performed three songs that were not at all bad, and then nonchalantly played this variation on a popular song from 9 years earlier.

It’s a variation on a theme worthy of Hawkins’ idol, J.S. Bach. It continues to reverberate in every jazz performance to this day.