Coleman Hawkins 'Bean & the Boys'
Notes by Dan Morgenstern
Coleman Hawkins Quartet.
recorded October 19, 1944
1. Drifting on a Reed;
3. Flyin' Hawk;
4. On the Bean;
* Coleman Hawkins - tenor.
* Thelonious Monk - piano.
* Edward Robinson - bass.
* Denzil Best - drums.
The musical, social and cultural phenomenon we call jazz has produced many extraordinary figures, but even among his peers, Coleman Hawkins was special.
He was special not only because he was the first to make of his chosen instrument a vehicle for the expression of real music and thus was responsible for its eventual dominant position in jazz; not only because his remarkable career spanned five decades of creative playing and earned him a place in the pantheon of jazz, but special because he, almost alone among his contemporaries, understood, sympathized with, and often fostered the valid new ideas that crossed the musical horizon during his lifetime of playing.
The music on this album is a case in point. Much of it was made at a time when the world of jazz was in the throes of a schism that makes todays arguments between adherents of musical anarchy and musical order seem mild indeed. It is, however, a statement of position from above that battle.
The ideological war between traditionalists and modernists back then seems senseless. So called bebop, the object of wrath from the right, is today seen by every sensible and knowledgeable student of jazz as a logical development. To be sure, revolutionary motives were sometimes claimed by musicians - though more often than not their verbiage was scripted by self-seeking journalists and publicity agents, playing on the social and cultural frustrations of the young jazz musician, and acting out their own.
By the same token, we can see now that what was scorned as corny and old fashioned by the left was anything but; today, no ex-bopper or avant gardist dares speak ill of Louis Armstrong, and New Orleans jazz is hailed even by would-be revolutionaries as a glorious achievement of black culture.
Not unlike Pablo Picasso, after whom he named one of his masterpieces, Hawk was not above picking up ideas from others. Never an imitator, he was a great absorber. He had the rare capacity to transmute and make his own whatever elements struck his fancy in the work of others. Not, of course, just everything new. It had to be something that would add to, not conflict with, what he had established as his own thing.
Parker's, Gillespie's and Monk's discoveries were often compatible with his conceptions and he rated these men among the few others he would admit as peers: Armstrong, Tatum, Jimmy Harrison and Chu Berry.
In any case, Hawk understood and appreciated Monk at a time when most others, sympathetic musicians included, considered him too strange even for a world where eccentricity was a rule. The first session on this LP was Monk's recording debut. In a band Hawk led on 52nd St., he had his first downtown job, also his last for years to come.
Drifting On A Reed has a bitch of a little piano intro; incredible how Monk establishes an unmistakable identity in just a few bars - even a note might suffice. This is a ballad with ripe, burgeoning Hawk, again saving plenty for the end. Hawk's true sound was captured on this date.
The piano intro to On The Bean, one of the many titles based on puns involving that particular nickname, could only be Monk. These are Whispering changes, differently celebrated by Hawk a year before in Stumpy. Hawk's phrasing here is still quite symmetrical, but there are harmonic twists not previously noted. Monk's eight solo bars (shades of Thelonious) are all him, but dig his comping too, - original but not the least "weird".
Flyin' Hawk has tantalizingly familiar changes, and good bass work from "Bass" Robinson. Denzil Best's drums are largely inaudible, though his fine beat is felt. Monk's got a full chorus here, and it shows his unique conception already fully formed, if he had not quite found the fingerings to convey it as fully as later.