Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Kiss Explained: Sonny Stitt and Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins

When the casual wanderer through the blogosphere stumbles upon the Washerman’s Dog she should be forgiven for thinking she’s discovered yet another jazz blog. After all there is that big picture on the masthead. It does seem to suggest jazz.  I confess it. 

And if that lovely wanderer stops and peruses the site she could be forgiven a second time for thinking she’s been misled. While the Dog has a number of jazz  posts, even Blind Eddy can see that most of the improvisation comes in the form of Hindustani ragas. 

So, she (our visiting jazz lover), might ask, why don’t you change the picture? Put up a photo of some famous Ustad or Panditji, and stop confusing everyone.  Fair call. But you see, as well as music, I love good photography.  And the picture that graces the masthead is a beauty.

Taken in 1957 by Terry Cryer, the English photographer, the picture captures Sonny Stitt planting an affectionate kiss on the crown of the granddaddy of all jazz saxophone players, the great Coleman Hawkins.  It is a cracking image.

And as such it the perfect face of the Washerman’s Dog which is a blog dedicated to cracking music all types from all regions of the world.  Including jazz.

And so tonight we pay homage to the great men who have fronted this blog so well for so long: Sonny Stitt and Coleman Hawkins.

It is hard to imagine jazz without the saxophone.  There is probably no single instrument more identified with the genre then the sax.  And yet until Coleman Hawkins arrived on the scene in the 1920s it was rarely heard, other than as some sort of kitsch novelty. But in the hands and lips of The Hawk the saxophone has become the ultimate jazzman’s tool. The trumpet is also played with magnificence in classical music and smooth soul. The guitar is everywhere. So too the piano and the drums. But the saxophone's natural home and place of greatest achievement is jazz. And for that we must thank Coleman Hawkins.  In Hawkins' wake have come several generations of sax players (Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane) all of whom would if given the chance pay the same respect and love to their guru as Sonny Stitt.

Wrapped Tight is from 1965 when Hawkins was near the end of his career and life. Fear not, this album is not a candle on the wane but a vigorous swan song from the Grandmaster.
Sonny Stitt

For his part, Sonny was a follower of Charlie Parker and devoted his life to touring and recording. All up he made more than 100 records including Rearin’ Back from 1962 the second part of the double header tonight.

So with a tip of the hat…

            Track Listing:
        01 Marcheta
02 Intermezzo
03 Wrapped Tight
04 Red Roses For A Blue Lady
05 She's Fit
06 Beautiful Girl
07 And I Still Love You
08 Bean's Place
09 Here's That Rainy Day
10 I Won't Dance
11 Indian Summer
12 Out Of Nowhere
Listen here.

            Track Listing:
            01 Bunny R
            02 Carpsie's Groove
            03 Cut Plug
            04 Little Girl Blue
            05 Queen
            06 Rearin' Back
            07 We
Listen here.

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