It Never Entered My Mind: a sax duet

April 10, 2011 • 5:14 am

I feel saxophone postings coming on, and I’m so happy that I found this favorite on YouTube.  It’s a lovely duet between two tenor sax giants of the 20th century, Ben Webster (1909-1973; nicknamed “Frog”) and Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969; alternately called “Hawk” or “Bean”).  Starting off with Duke Ellington, Webster (whose solo on Ellington’s “Cotton Tail” is epochal) later struck out on his own, finishing his career in Europe.  Hawkins took off with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra, and then produced some of the most famous sax solos in jazz history, including “Body and Soul” and “The Man that I Love”.  I hope to highlight these this week.  Like Webster, Hawkins spent much of his later life in Europe, where jazz was more highly respected and blacks less denigrated.

Of the two, I’d give the nod to Hawk for his creativity, but it’s a tough call. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose on this recording of the two collaborating on the Rodgers and Hart ballad, “It Never Entered My Mind.”

The recording was made in 1957 in Los Angeles, when both men were at the end of their careers. But you couldn’t tell that from their marvelous playing. Webster starts the song off, and Hawkins cuts in at about 2:22.  Then Webster comes back at 4:27 to take it to the end. Notice the different styles of the two men: Webster’s playing is mellower and throaty, Hawk’s more flamboyant and raucous.  Oscar Peterson accompanies on piano.

If this song doesn’t chill you out, you’re not human!

Click on the “Watch on YouTube” line.

18 thoughts on “It Never Entered My Mind: a sax duet

      1. Thanks for sharing these links. There are slide trumpets and slide whistles, so why not a slide sax? I have to say that I didn’t find the sound particularly appealing. That (and the attendent difficulties of playing rapid passages) may explain why they never caught on.

      2. Glad you liked it! I actually wound up at that slide sax from the slide whistle in this King Oliver piece.

        Pity there’s no video of KO, but since that was 1923 (=silent film), why would they have bothered. But ask and YouTube supplies the next best thing. Put Peruna sobbin in the YT search window and you’ll get a longstanding Danish group that plays it with all of KO’s feeling, slide whistle and all!

  1. A marvelous contrast to the noise that passes for music that is so popular today. Call it sensitivity, musicality or just plain taste–these six musicians have it.

  2. Check out this Youtube video for a true gathering of giants:

    Billie Holiday singing with Ben Webster — tenor saxophone, Lester Young — tenor saxophone, Vic Dickenson — trombone, Gerry Mulligan — baritone saxophone, Coleman Hawkins — tenor saxophone, Roy Eldridge — trumpet, Doc Cheatham — trumpet, Danny Barker — guitar, Milt Hinton — double bass, Mal Waldron — piano and Osie Johnson – drums

  3. So noce.
    Never heard Webster called ‘Frog’…’Ben’, or that sound is usually sufficient ID.

  4. Was worried for a sec I wasn’t going to be “human”. I normally don’t “get” jazz…especially the noise that passes for smooth or contemporary jazz…that just sets every cell of my being on irritable edge. But this was indeed beautiful. Thank you!

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