Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge in Europe, 1949/1950
After the Don Redman concerts in autumn 1946 nothing much happened in Switzerland in regard to modern jazz directly from the USA. One of the most important events in this context was Coleman Hawkin’s tour through several european countries in late 1949 and early 1950, among them Switzerland, where Hawkins had spent some time during the 1930s.
It is not quite clear to me from when to when the tour lasted; according to John Chilton’s “The song of the Hawk”, Hawkins flew from New York to Paris on November 29. He shortly rehearsed his group – James Moody on second ts, Nat Peck (tb), Hubert Fol (as), Jean-Paul Mengeon (p), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (dr) – after that they played the Edouard VII Theatre in Paris. On November 30 they appeared in Bern, on December 1 they played in Zurich. On December 3 the Hawkins band played in Lausanne, this concert was released at sometime in the 1990s as TCB CD 02132.
Here’s the program for the swiss part of the concert that I found in the Otto Flückiger collection. As you see the front page was signed by Hawkins himself.
(click to enlarge)
Although the Be Bop revolution had shaken the american jazz scene already four years earlier, a lot of european critics still did not know what to make of the “new” sounds that altogether were not so new all. Typical for the times is the following review of the Zurich concert– signed by one “-li” – which appeared in an unidentified newspaper (apparently the reviewer took Nat Peck as another french man).
Be Bop at the Kongress-Saal
About the jazz concert with Coleman Hawkins
That a Coleman Hawkins has subscribed to Be Bop is really surprising. It is a pity when you think of the good records this artist of the tenor saxophone has published – for example his famous Body And Soul!. This piece which was played in a crippled version on December 1 is a good indicator of this aberrance in jazz. This unmotivated music that does not consider harmonic and rhythmic laws was even tiring to jazz fanatics. The thousand listeners missing – who are always there when good authentic jazz is played (i.e. Sidney Bechet, Armstrong) and are able to fill the Kongress-Saal – proofed with ostentation that the audience in Zurich does not agree with this kind of jazz. Let us hope, that this silly fashion will not hold its ground for too long, as it would not be able to attract more people to jazz.
Ok, some of the participants were good musicians, especially the black ones. Drummer Kenny Clarke, who is not just anybody, was brilliant during his solos, and received the most applause by far. This shows that the audience who was attuned to sensation was really satisfied only by him. Unfortunately he found a lot of fun in being louder than his colleagues, forgetting that it also applies to jazz that the drum set must not be the main instrument after all. From the start second tenor saxophonist unwillingly made some mistakes [“Canards” meaning “ducks” is a french slang word] which he repeated often during the concert. Obviously this does not matter in Be Bop – because Moody apparently belongs to the greatest exponents of this style. Technically he was extraordinary, but he could not reach Hawkins in any way. The other four french musicians blended into the ensemble well, but it has to be said also: What is based on the instinctive naturalness of the negro often seems laughable with white people. The whole concert was tiring not the least because there were no soprano instruments in the group and the whole thing appeared monotonous – but that’s what Be Bop is. -li
Hawkins, the poor victim of a “silly fashion”? As you know – without me going into detail – nothing could have been further from the truth. It would have been better for “li” if he had just relaxed and enjoyed the pieces in Hawkins’ repertoire that might have better suited his tastes.
Here I am offering you a rendition of “Sophisticated Lady” as played by Coleman Hawkins, that you might not have heard before.
COLEMAN HAWKINS: SOPHISTICATED LADY
(Please excuse the digital noise, the source CD is slightly damaged)
It was recorded for broadcast around the time in question, although the exact provenance is unclear. I have this from a CD-R in the Otto Flückiger collection, the notes to which carry irritating data:
Track 13: Roy Eldridge/Rec. Zürich 1950/Sophisticated Lady
Track 14: Coleman Hawkins/Rec. München [Munich] 1949/Rockin Chair
As you see right away, something must be wrong here, as “Sophisticated Lady” is the Hawkins track, whereas “Rockin’ Chair” belonged to Roy Eldridge – it used to be Eldridge’s feature number when he was with Gene Krupa. But what about the dates and places?
The next date mentioned by Chilton for Hawkins’ tour is December 11, when the band played in London. Afterwards there was a jam session after which a writer from Melody Maker asked Hawkins what he thought about bop. His answer is quoted in Chilton’s The song of the Hawk:
Bop? Man, I ain’t never heard of bop! What is this bop? I understand it as a name, the name of a street. Bop Villa and next to it you got Pop Villa. Do I like the sound of the word? Yes, it sounds all right. I don’t know any bop music. I only know one music – the music that’s played. There’s no such thing as bop music, but there is such a thing as progress. What you are talking about is probably a commercial phrase, huh? A phrase that has been used to make something sell.
On December 13 Hawk played in Brussels. On December 21 the band recorded seven tracks for Disques Vogue in Paris – where Hawkins also spent Christmas. According to Chilton, Hawk played in Germany in January 1950 and – later in the month – with local musicians in Sweden. After that he returned to the USA.
So for the Hawkins track above, neither Munich 1949 can be right (as the band played Germany in January 1950) nor Zürich 1950 (as the band played Zürich on December 1 1949).
So what about the Roy Eldridge track? Have a listen:
ROY ELDRIDGE: ROCKIN`CHAIR
(Please excuse the digital noise, the source CD is slightly damaged)
I am not able to find out whether Eldridge was in Europe in 1949. Judging from his discographical entries he must have spent most of the year in the USA. But in 1950 Eldridge was touring Europe with the Benny Goodman orchestra for six weeks. From May 10 to May 12 1950 they were playing at the Kongresshaus in Zürich. It seems that Rockin Chair was the Eldridge feature number for this tour, it was also played at Benny Goodman’s Lausanne concert on May 13 (released as TCB (Swi)02142). Unfortunately I do not own the Goodman TCB CD, so I can not compare the versions of “Rockin’ Chair”.
Of course another possibility is that the mix-up on the CD notes is complete chaos, and that the Hawkins track is from Zürich, December 1, 1949, whereas the Eldridge track is from Munich, 1950.
So, can anyone identify the provenience of these two tracks? Does anyone know when (or if) Benny Goodman’s band played in Munich in 1950?
Any help is welcome.