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Body and Soul, Part 1

October 30th, 2011 Posted by Music 1 thought on “Body and Soul, Part 1”

Body and Soul: Jazz tenor saxophonists’ standard, part 1

In this 9 part series on the historical jazz iconic song, Body and Soul, the author compares recorded versions from some of jazz history’s greatest tenor saxophonists.

Body and Soul was written by Hollywood songwriter/conductor Johnny Green in 1930, with lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton. The song was first recorded and popularized by the Paul Whiteman orchestra. It was released on October 11, 1930 and held the number one spot on the charts for six weeks. A second version appeared in the Broadway revue, Three’s a Crowd, sung by Libby Holman, also in October of 1930, and subsequently rose to number three on the recording charts. Between 1930 and 1939 the song was in the top twenty of the pop charts 11 times as recorded by such artists as Ruth Etting, Ozzie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Henry Allen, and Art Tatum[i], but none had the impact of the version recorded by Coleman Hawkins exactly nine years from the original release date.

Considered by many as the definitive solo of the legacy of Coleman Hawkins, the circumstances of the October 11, 1939 recording are shrouded in mystery. Hawkins and his band members had just recorded three sides for Bluebird records, a subsidiary of RCA Victor, and a fourth side was needed. Although rumors suggest that its inclusion in the session was an afterthought, jazz historians Dan Morgenstern and Kenny Berger agree that the recording of “Body and Soul” was planned and that the rumor was “probably concocted by Hawkins to add to the record’s mystique.”[ii] Regardless of the circumstances, Hawkins’ two improvised choruses on Green’s ballad became one of the most celebrated recordings in the history of jazz. This recording became the first true jazz hit and one of the most influential jazz records in history, achieving Grammy status in 1973, and added to the top 50 list of the National Recording Registry of 2004 of the Library of Congress. Its entry in that registry reads: “Through the influence of this recording, “Body and Soul” became a standard for tenor sax players, with many referencing parts of Hawkins’ solo and playing in the challenging key of Db.”[iii]

In part 2 of this series, we’ll examine Hawkins’ version compared to his contemporary jazz saxophonist Lester Young.



[i]K. J. McElrath,  Body and Soul.

[ii] Kenny Berger, “Body and Soul”, The Oxford Companion to Jazz, ed. By Bill Kirchner, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York: (2000), 185

[iii] National Recording Preservation Board, The National Recording Registry 2004, Library of Congress,

http// (accessed 10/14/2008).

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Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young: Body and Soul, Part 2

October 29th, 2011 Posted by Music 3 thoughts on “Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young: Body and Soul, Part 2”

Body and Soul part 2- Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young

The song “Body and Soul” is constructed in a popular 32 bar song form A A B A, with a quirky bridge (B) that spends 4 bars in the key a half-tone up from the home key and four bars in the key a half-tone below the home key. This unique tonal relationship may have led to some of the song’s initial appeal for jazz musicians who are known for re-working popular chord progressions to suit their compositional and improvisational needs, and enjoy the unique and challenging structures. More likely, however, is the influence of Hawkins on both his contemporaries and successive generations of jazz saxophonists.  The 11 versions of Body and Soul included in this anthology are presented in chronological order from their original recording dates and represent a sampling of the influence of Coleman Hawkins on the tenor tradition of some of the world’s most iconic jazz tenor saxophonists.

In his solo that takes the entire recording except for a four measure piano introduction Hawkins briefly mimics the first few bars of the original melody but never actually states it; masterfully articulate in improvising the two choruses by creating a well crafted improvised statement of his own. His fiery arpeggiation of the chord changes is a flawless execution of voice leading technique over the song’s 32 bar form. The scintillating emotional buildup throughout Hawkins’ solo makes this recording accessible and enjoyable to musicians and casual listeners alike. Hawkins’ big earthy tone and wide vibrato carry his ideas through an intense rhythmic drive over the chord changes. The recording became a jukebox hit for Hawkins and became an immediate standard for tenor saxophonists, showcasing that instrument’s potential as a solo instrument.

Lester Young’s version was from a little known Los Angeles session recorded in July of 1942. It is in a trio setting that includes Nat Cole on piano and Red Callender on bass. While Hawkins was on his European sojourn in the late thirties, Young’s popularity was on the rise due mainly through his work with the Count Basie band. Hawkins returned to the U.S. shortly before recording “Body and Soul”. This Los Angeles track is a departure from the typical Young recordings, and sounds more like a tribute to Hawkins than a Lester Young original. Young’s style was much more lyrical than Hawkins’, and his sound was less gruff and edgy. If Hawkins’ style could have been described as driving and cutting, then Young’s style might be described as floating and gliding.  Though stylistically the two tenor saxophone contemporaries were very different, this recording does not show it. Young’s tone is darker than normal, and his lines are less horizontal than in many of this other recordings. In fact, as acknowledged by jazz writer Leonard Feather “Lester was a Hawkins fan like everyone else at that time in the evolution of jazz.”[i]


[i] Leonard Feather, Notes to The Complete Aladdin Recordings of Lester Young, Blue Note 72438 3278725

(CD) 1975.

19° International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este

Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt: Body and Soul, Part 3

October 28th, 2011 Posted by Music 0 thoughts on “Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt: Body and Soul, Part 3”

Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt: Body and Soul part 3


Stan Getz was a disciple of Lester Young in style, known for his unique melodic phrasing and his light and searching timbre, one like Young’s- that was able to splash a multitude of tonal colors on the canvas in an imaginative and playful way. This is not to say that Getz couldn’t hold his own with his hard- bopping contemporaries like Rollins and Stitt- he could- but his style was more like Debussy than Bach. Getz’ version of “Body and Soul”, recorded in 1952, opens very similarly to that of his two predecessor’s but quickly shows Getz’ be-bop chops with some impressive double time passages that catch the listener off guard, but do not spoil the romantic treatment that is embodied in Getz’ fluid lyrical style. Like Hawkins Getz only flirts with the melody, never needing to state it, although it’s always recognizable. The interesting language of the be-bop musician with substitute chord changes that create smooth voice leading is present in the Getz recording.

As the fifties moved along, so did the evolution of the tenor saxophone. The new saxophonists eschewed the breathy vibratos of the forties, and embraced a harder sound of the boppers. Such was the case with Sonny Stitt who harbored a much crisper sound than the swing tenor men, and worked his way around the horn with rapid precision patterns that were a combination of lyrical sequences and scale patterns in the be-bop language. Recorded in New York in 1956, his treatment of “Body and Soul” is more like a showpiece for his command of the instrument than any of the previously mentioned players, yet he pays homage to Hawkins by imitating the elder’s tone in the beginning of the recording before taking off in a brilliant display of double time figures. Stitt may also have given a nod to Hawkins by recording this song on tenor, despite being known for his idolization of Charlie Parker and playing alto sax on most of his best known works.


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Rollins and Coltrane: Body and Soul, Part 4

October 27th, 2011 Posted by Music 4 thoughts on “Rollins and Coltrane: Body and Soul, Part 4”

Rollins and Coltrane: Body and Soul part 4


Theodore Walter “Sonny” Rollins was nine years old when Coleman Hawkins’ record was released and happened to live in the same neighborhood in Harlem. There he was exposed to the great saxophonist along with Lester Young and later Charlie Parker. The young Rollins idolized Hawkins and adopted his big dark tone and gruff powerful sound. Soon after graduating high school he was working professionally in New York. After very successful stints with Miles Davis and later affiliations with Max Roach, Rollins checked into rehab to kick his narcotic addiction. Soon after his return he recorded this solo version of “Body and Soul” in 1958. Nearly twenty years after the Hawkins recording, Sonny Rollins displays his own command of the song with a melodic interpretation that shows not only the rich powerful sound that he assimilated from Hawkins, but the flowing lyricism he captured from listening to Young and Parker. This solo marks a period in Rollins’ life when he was in his prime- mature, clean, and sober- a fitting time to make his own statement of the tenor man’s classic. His unaccompanied rendition soars with the confidence of an eagle (or a Hawk) and gracefully demands its due respect.

If Hawkins and Young were the most influential tenor saxophonists of the thirties and forties, then Rollins and Coltrane were the most influential tenors of the fifties and sixties. Both second generation tenor men were influenced by the older duo, and each left a huge footprint on the jazz scene for future saxophonists. Coltrane’s version of “Body and Soul” is notable for its medium tempo groove, its unique syncopated vamping accompaniment, its pedal treatment in the A sections, and its re-harmonization of the bridge. The use of his advanced harmonic language which cycles through the second half of each tonal center of the bridge by major thirds became known as “Coltrane changes”. Originally recorded with his “Giant Steps” composition in 1960, this version completely modernizes the feel of “Body and Soul” which was released in 1964. This classic Coltrane quartet features McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums and Steve Davis on bass. Particularly interesting is Tyner’s piano ostinato over the dominant pedal in the A sections which gives the song its half-time feel. The re-harmonization of this tune allows Coltrane to play through the changes with a vertical approach like Hawkins except that Coltrane effaces the typical voice leading tendencies of traditional harmony by exploring new tonal relationships. Coltrane’s pure sound and his singing style of playing have led many to call his playing angry, although passionate and spiritual seem like more appropriate terms. Coltrane’s use of pentatonic and scale patterns (1,2,3,5) became a staple for an entire new school of tenor men, as well as a preferred vocabulary for teaching jazz improvisation at many major universities.

Dexter Gordon: Body and Soul, Part 5

October 26th, 2011 Posted by Music 0 thoughts on “Dexter Gordon: Body and Soul, Part 5”

Another important jazz tenor saxophonist from the Rollins and Coltrane era was Dexter Gordon (1923-1990). Like the other two, Gordon was a disciple of Hawkins and Young, a major figure in the hard bop era, and a recovered narcotic addict. More like Hawkins in tone, less of an innovator than Coltrane, and more in touch with the melodic voice leading techniques of the swing era tenors, Dexter Gordon was known for his sweet rich sound, his great sense of swing, and his ability to express his sense of humor though his quotations of popular songs through his solos. His long recording career found him touring Europe extensively in the sixties and touring the U.S. in the seventies. This example of the mature style of Gordon’s playing was recorded live at San Francisco’s Keystone Corner in 1978, with a rhythm section of George Cables, Rufus Reid and Eddie Gladden. Gordon uses the same basic arrangement as Coltrane, albeit at a slower tempo, with one twist. Instead of pedaling over the dominant for the A section, Reid uses the keyboard ostinato figure of Tyner for his bass line. It is Gordon’s romantic ballad style that combines the best of the modern Coltrane version with the classic rendition of Hawkins. By far the longest version of this anthology, (over 16 minutes), Gordon sings and sways through every chorus tempting the rhythm section to break into double time but skillfully pulling back throughout, keeping the listener entertained with his smooth penetrating sound and his quick wit expressed through quotes of “Swinging on a Star” and “Isn’t She Lovely” at the conclusion of Cables’ piano solo. Like his contemporaries Rollins and Stitt, Gordon is a master of the melodic voice leading technique of weaving through the chord changes while creating beautifully expressive melodic lines. Body and Soul ala Dexter Gordon is a fine representation of the artistry of the jazz tenor saxophone in the hands of one of its legendary figures.

Joe Lovano playing saxophone

Lovano and Brecker: Body and Soul, Part 6

October 25th, 2011 Posted by Music 1 thought on “Lovano and Brecker: Body and Soul, Part 6”

Joe Lovano has been called one of the most important contemporary figures of the tenor saxophone. His rich “woody” sound combined with his melodic approach and cerebral treatment of complex rhythmic lines continue to put him on the top of the list of twenty-first century jazz innovators. Not content to be pigeonholed by constraints of style or repertoire, Lovano is constantly exploring new combinations of timbres and venues, fresh and exciting whether he is recording a tenor/piano duet or recording with a symphony orchestra; whether he is playing be-bop, standards, originals, or free jazz. Joe Lovano has roots that spring from the Hawkins-Rollins-Coltrane traditions, but has evolved into his own as an innovative master of the saxophone. His sound is easily recognizable and his melodic concept is purely his own- a trait both respected and admired by jazz aficionados. Lovano’s rendition of “Body and Soul” comes at the listener as a quiet introspective duet with pianist Michelle Petrucciani. It is here that Lovano’s tendency to play from the “heart” is realized. Not a slave to former traditions, yet masterful on his own terms, Lovano quietly glides through the standard changes with a brilliant display of virtuosic technique that echoes peace and tranquility long after the recording is over.

The late Michael Brecker stands alone in the field of the multitude of saxophonists that rely on the pattern approach to improvisation influenced by John Coltrane. Arguably one of the finest technical players to grace the instrument, Brecker’s sound has come to be known as the modern standard for Coltrane-like- players. It is perhaps his fluid sound and precision playing that have placed him on the top of the mountain of ‘Trane descendants. Brecker’s ability to effortlessly conquer any technical issues while consistently squeezing every ounce of emotional content out of every note has helped inspire a new generation of tenor players. His version of “Body and Soul” recorded in 1992 along with tenor superstar Bob Mintzer is a showcase of his technical wizardry that shows his complete mastery of the tenor saxophone. After a delicate statement of the original melody- more closely stated than any other version in this anthology, Brecker shows us how every note throughout the range of the instrument carries a uniformity of timbre in his hands, as well as a technique that allows him to dance in an emotionally dripping rendition of this tenor man’s lament.

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Frank Tiberi: Body and Soul, Part 7

October 24th, 2011 Posted by Music 1 thought on “Frank Tiberi: Body and Soul, Part 7”

Tenor saxophonist Frank Tiberi gives a solid performance of his own, closely following the Coltrane version, except with a more bouncy, Afro-Cuban feel provided by drummer Adam Nussbaum. Tiberi, now an elder statesman of jazz tenor, is relentless in his exploration of the Coltrane “Giant Steps” harmonic possibilities, and in fact has dedicated a lifetime of study to the Coltrane approach on the instrument. Tiberi’s harmonic resolutions are organized around a complex series of chord substitutions that provide motion throughout his solos. He has developed the Coltrane concept to the extreme, exploring endless possibilities of moving lines with deceptive resolutions. Anything but cliche, Tiberi’s lines seem to continuously evolve and keep the listener on edge as he explores the harmonic landscape with the skill of an abstract painter like Jackson Pollack. This 1999 recording features Tiberi along side Joe Lovano and George Garzone, both who express the ultimate respect for his playing[i]. Tiberi remains one of the true unsung heroes of jazz, well known for his tenure with the Woody Herman orchestra (since 1969) which he still fronts, but rarely recorded on his own. It is his internalization of the Coltrane concept and his continued exploration of the resulting harmonic lines that keeps his playing fresh, new, and ever evolving. His imaginative patterns are unlike any other, creating melodic possibilities that continue to expand and entertain. This rare record from Frank Tiberi is long overdue and serves as a testament to his intense harmonic style that has quietly influenced so many tenor alumni of the Herman band and others.


[i] Herb Wong, Notes to Tiberian Mode, NYJAM 1199, (CD) 1999

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Chris Potter: Body and Soul, Part 8

October 23rd, 2011 Posted by Music 1 thought on “Chris Potter: Body and Soul, Part 8”

Chris Potter: Body and Soul, part 8

The last version of “ Body and Soul ” is from contemporary icon Chris Potter, who like so many of the modern performers on this instrument shows influence from many of the preceding artists. In his CD “Gratitude” (2001) Potter has assembled a collection of songs dedicated to those influential past masters who have been inspirational to his development. Among these are tunes dedicated to Coltrane, Rollins, Parker, Lovano, Brecker, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins. In a fitting gesture to the influence of Hawkins’ “ Body and Soul ” Potter writes: “Since I don’t see what more I could add, I decided not even to use the saxophone on this version. Scott Coley (bass) and I play this as a duo and I play the bass clarinet.”[i] How fitting a tribute! Has the evolution of the saxophone come so far that there is nothing left to add? Let’s hope not. Never the less, Potter’s polished technique and pure conservatory sound shine on this bass clarinet version that gives us reason to believe that he should be recognized as one of the great contemporary jazz artists of the twenty first century.

Throughout the context of this anthology references have been made to the preceding artists as an evolutionary chain of significant contributors to the genre of jazz tenor saxophone. Each artist, however great his accolades and accomplishments, has one thing in common- a recording of “Body and Soul” in his discography. The very first of these, as noted, was the 1939 recording by Coleman Hawkins. As Dexter Gordon used to introduce it, “There comes a time in the life of every tenor player when he must play “Body and Soul”.[ii] Coleman Hawkins created more than a legendary recording; he created a template for the development of the tenor saxophone as a major instrument for jazz improvisation. Hawkins created a legacy. He taught the world how to sing through a saxophone, how to inspire creativity through two choruses of “Body and Soul”.


[i] Chris Potter, Notes to Gratitude, Verve 314549433-2, (CD) 2001

[ii] Willard Jenkins, Notes to From the Soul, Blue Note CDP 7986362 (CD) 1992

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Bibliography: Body and Soul, Part 9

October 21st, 2011 Posted by Music 3 thoughts on “Bibliography: Body and Soul, Part 9”


Ake, David. Jazz Cultures. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002.

Berger, Kenny. 2000. Body and Soul. In The Oxford Companion to Jazz, ed. by Bill              Kirchner, 185. Oxford and NY: Oxford University Press.

Berliner, Paul F. Thinking in Jazz:The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

“Coleman Hawkins.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin.Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

“Dexter Gordon.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin.Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Feather, Leonard. Notes in The Complete Aladdin Recordings of Lester Young. Blue Note 7243 8 32787 2 5 (CD) 1975.

Gleason, Ralph. Notes to Coltrane’s Sound Atlantic 1419-2 (CD) 1964

Gridley, Mark C. Jazz Styles: History and Analysis. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Jenkins, Willard. Notes to From the Soul, Blue Note CDP 7986362 (CD) 1992

“Joe Lovano.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

“John Coltrane.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Kennedy, Gary W. “Potter, Chris.” In The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., edited by Barry Kernfeld. Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Kernfeld, Barry “Tiberi, Frank.” In The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., edited by Barry Kernfeld. Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Kirchner, Bill, ed. The Oxford Companion to Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

“Lester Young.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Library of Congress. The National Recording Registry 2004.http// (accessed 10/14/2008).

McElrath, K.J. “Body and Soul”. http://www. (accessed October 18, 2008)

Monson, Ingrid T. (Ingrid Tolia). Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Neymeyer, Eric. “Joe Lovano.” Jazz Improv, 10/07/05 2005, 30-53.

Pennell, Brenda “Brecker, Michael.” In Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online                                                                   (accessed October 18, 2008).

Potter, Chris. Notes to Gratitude, Verve 314549433-2, (CD) 2001

“Sonny Rollins.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

“Sonny Stitt.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

“Stan Getz.” In Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., edited by Colin Larkin. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 18, 2008).

Woldeck, Carl. Notes to The Definitive Coleman Hawkins: Ken Burns Jazz. Verve314 549 085-2 (CD), 2000.

Wong, Herb. Notes to Tiberian Mode NYJAM 1199 (CD).

Young, Al. Notes to Stan Getz for Lovers Verve 314 589 361-2 (CD) 2002.

19° International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este

Body and Soul Discography

October 20th, 2011 Posted by Music 0 thoughts on “Body and Soul Discography”

All selections are recordings of Body and Soul 1930 (Green, Heyman, Sour, Eyton)

  1. Coleman Hawkins (1939) 3:00
  2. Lester Young (1942)         5:07
  3. Stan Getz (1952)               3:14
  4. Sonny Stitt (1956)            4:28
  5. Sonny Rollins (1958)        4:17
  6. John Coltrane (1964)        5:35
  7. Dexter Gordon (1978)      16:59
  8. Joe Lovano (1991)            7:27
  9. Michael Brecker (1993)    12:24
  10. Frank Tiberi (1999)           9:37
  11. Chris Potter (2001)            5:29


Brecker, Michael 1993 “Body and Soul.” Twin Tenors Novis 63173-2 (CD)

Coltrane, John. 1960. “Body and Soul.” Coltrane’s Sound Atlantic 1419-2 (CD) 1964

Getz, Stan.1952. “Body and Soul.” Stan Getz for Lovers Verve 314 589 361-2 (CD) 2002

Gordon, Dexter. 1978. “Body and Soul.” Dexter Gordon: Ballads Blue Note CDP7965792 (CD) 1991

Hawkins, Coleman.1939.“Body and Soul.” Body and Soul. RCA Bluebird 5717-2RB (LP)

Lovano, Joe. 1991. “Body and Soul.” From the Soul Blue Note CDP 986362 (CD)

Potter, Chris. 2001. “Body and Soul. Gratitude Verve 314 549 433-2 (CD)

Rollins, Sonny. “Body and Soul.” 1958. Brass and Trio. Verve V/V68430 (CD)

Stitt, Sonny. 1956. “Body and Soul.” New York Jazz: The Sonny Stitt Quartet. Verve

314 517 050-2 (CD) 1995

Tiberi, Frank. “Body and Soul.” 1999. Tiberian Mode NYJAM 1199 (CD)

Young, Lester. “Body and Soul.” The Complete Aladdin Recordings of Lester Young. 1995 Blue Note 7243 8 32787 2 5 (CD)