Underrated (non-Coleman Hawkins) tenor sax "Body and Soul"s

by David Tenner

One effect of the greatness of Coleman Hawkins' 1939 recording of "Body and Soul"--and of Hawkins' other versions such as the 1940 version from the Bill Savory collection that was made public last year, or "Rainbow Mist" from 1944 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY00GBAWHmw --is that other tenor men's "Body and Soul"s do not get as much attention as they deserve. Some of them:

(1) First, remember that before Hawk's version there was Chu Berry's with Roy Eldridge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lor80WUVbtw

(2) Lester Young with Nat King Cole and Red Callender (1942): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBfqqbm50uw Note that the deepening of Pres' tone and his turn toward ballads had started before his disastrous Army experience. I wouldn't call this Pres' greatest ballad masterpiece--that honor goes to the 1945 "These Foolish Things" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7l1Qbtphaw IMO--but it certainly has some beautiful playing.

(3) Ben Webster (1944): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xXLCA1zzGk

(4) Don Byas (December 1946 or January 1947): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKAu61LSuX0 Obviously influenced by the most famous Hawkins version yet different in almost every detail.

(5) Lucky Thompson, 1956 (recorded as "Deep Passion" with Clifton "Skeeter" Best, guitar, and Oscar Pettiford, bass): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReR9vBOooRY Was there ever a musician with a more inappropriate nickname than Eli "Lucky" Thompson? If there were any justice, he would be seen to rank with Hawkins, Young, Webster, and Byas.

(6) Paul Gonsalves, 1960, from John Lewis' "Wonderful World of Jazz": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-mpBlU_lbk Beautiful soft-toned playing from Gonsalves, and Jim Hall and Herb Pomeroy don't play shabbily, either.

I don't say these versions have been totally neglected--Gunther Schuller warmly praises Webster's version in *The Swing Era*--but I do think the tendency to see Hakwins' 1939 version as definitive does lead to other tenorists' versions being somewhat underrated.

Posted on Oct 30, 2017, 9:15 PM

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