Body and Soul, Coleman Hawkins

Photo by William P Gottlieb

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Download the Transcription: Bb, Eb, C, Bass Clef

In today’s post we take a look at Coleman Hawkins’ famous 1939 solo on the tune Body and Soul. Some consider this to be the definitive version and I certainly consider it a must study transcription (for saxophonists at least).

Normally in my analysis I would try and mark how all the notes function in context however in this solo I decided to focus more on step wise resolutions and repetitive figures as they are peppered throughout the *entire* solo. In terms an analyzing the function of the lines as they related to the harmony I think this solo is pretty straight forward so I’m leaving that as an exercise to the reader (heres a hint: it’s mostly linear and arpeggiated lines).

This recording is interesting to me for a couple reasons: 1) The melody is barely stated at all and is highly embellished when it is. Body and Soul was a widely known/famous pop tune of it’s day so anyone that heard this recording would have no question about which tune it was 2) this track is all business: just two choruses of Coleman Hawkins doing his thing. No extraneous solos, just a neat 3 minute little package! As much as I love to hear soloists really stretch out, sometimes it is refreshing to hear them get straight to the point. Of course, back in 1939 recording time would have been the limiting factor as opposed to a specific musical decision.

Coleman ties this solo together using lots of repeated figures and chromatic step resolutions. The following alternating note figure appears all over the solo:

Alternating Note Motif

This specific example also shows chromatic stepwise motion that appears through out the solo as well going from F to F# and resolving on G.

Here is another example of how Coleman repeats a figure and subtly changes it to voice lead through the chord progression:

Repetition of a figure with chromatic stepwise motion.



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