Body and Soul: The Evolution of a Tenor Saxophone Standard Review

For the last couple of weeks,  I have been diligently working through a great new book by Eric Allen entitled Body and Soul — The Evolution of a Tenor Saxophone Standard: Transcriptions and analysis of solos by: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny … Brecker, Chris Potter, Spiral-Bound Book

Body and Soul — The Evolution of a Tenor Saxophone Standard: Transcriptions and analysis of solos by: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny … Brecker, Chris Potter, Spiral-Bound Book

I have been hearing for years that young players today just don’t know the history behind jazz.  They haven’t done their homework!  They haven’t gone back and really studied from the Greats……..  I think I first heard comments like these back in the 80’s when I was a young college student. I of course,  dismissed these rants and complaints as worthless since I was indeed doing the footwork of learning everything the greats ever played. Of course… philosophy was to work backwards starting with Michael Brecker and Bob Berg.  As a young impatient college student I didn’t have time to go all the way back and study through all the masters.  Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young………those guys sounded great but I wanted to master all this outside modern playing and be burning!!

Of course as we get older we tend to appreciate things more, grow in our respect of the heritage and history of things hopefully.  As I near my 50’s I feel like I spend so many more  hours listening to these great tracks from these great players of the past.  Figuring out their ideas and listening to them swing.  Their music feels original, authentic……real…..lived.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this………Let me get back to Eric Allen’s very cool book. He takes the timeless standard Body and Soul and takes us on a musical journey through time with the great tenor sax players of yesteryear and today.

The book starts with a copy of the original sheet music of Body and Soul from 1930. This is very cool to look at,  it’s like finally seeing a museum piece of the original thing you have been trying to copy all these years. (Although this is of course a copy also……..)

The book then takes us through transcriptions of Body & Soul solos by Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Michael Brecker and finally Chris Potter.

Each solo is written out neatly  and attention is given to the smallest details of each transcription.  After each transcription there is an analysis of the solo which includes a breakdown of different melodic and improvisational techniques being used.  Eric describes each concept being used and then provides ample examples to study from the solo.

The cool thing that struck me about Body and Soul — The Evolution of a Tenor Saxophone Standard: Transcriptions and analysis of solos by: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny … Brecker, Chris Potter, Spiral-Bound Book is that here we have a method or tool that takes one standard and goes back through the last 90 years to highlight how the great tenor saxophone players approached this great standard.  It is fascinating to me to listen to each of the recordings and while looking at the transcription try to get inside the minds of these great improvisers.  “What were they thinking?  Why did they do that?  Where did that come from? Wow, that sounded awesome!!”

As can be expected, there are gems to be pulled from all of these solos that any fan of jazz and improvisation will cherish.

I had many of the recordings of these solos already in my collection but some were new to me.  I didn’t have the Chris Potter, the Dexter Gordon solo from 1967 nor the Stan Getz version in my collection and immediately bought those off of iTunes. (The Stan Getz version really blew my mind because of how original and unique that version is) The Dexter solo from ’67  smokes also………( Actually, they are all smokin’ but those two are just new to me…….)

As I worked through the book and tried to play different parts of the solos after listening to the recordings,  it struck me that what Eric Allen has done with this book is to take us back and in a sense have us look face to face with the history of jazz.  Unlike many of those critics in college who just said “Study the greats! Do your homework!” with no further direction, Eric Allen gives you a direction and focus………”Body & Soul”.  Starting from the beginning you can learn how to play this standard from the best tenor players there ever were.

Every student of jazz out there would benefit greatly from studying this book and applying all the concepts, phrasing, articulation, rhythms and melodic ideas to their own playing.  We’re talking about something a lot deeper than reading Body and Soul from the Real Book in the practice room.  We’re talking about studying with the Greats and perhaps getting a little bit of that greatness into our own playing.  I commend Eric Allen for coming up with the idea and doing all the work to get this book completed and published.  He will probably hate me for saying this as he probably just wants a long vacation at this point but…….I would love to see this idea continue with other standards as well.  They will be on my book shelf that is for sure!!

If your interested in this book you can get it on Amazon at:

Honestly, if you play the tenor saxophone…….how can you not be interested…………C’mon!!

Body and Soul — The Evolution of a Tenor Saxophone Standard: Transcriptions and analysis of solos by: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny … Brecker, Chris Potter, Spiral-Bound Book

Disclosure: I received the book mentioned above for free in the hope that I would perhaps review it here my blog. If you purchase the book from any of the Amazon links above I will make a small commission that I will use to support this site.  Regardless, I only review saxophone related products that I enjoy and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Avatar Walter George says

    Steve, thank you for letting us know about this book. I have been looking for something like this.Your readers might be interested in knowing there is a very nice free sample of the book that one can download from the author’s site which would help one get started.

  2. Avatar Michael J Smith says

    Hey Steve,

    Through your lessons and your great books, I have learned so much. Even my 2 children and my wife said “WOW where did you learn all that?” When I said your great name, they didn’t know who you are, but what they said was to keep following this guy named Neff. Over the years I purchased all of your outstanding books which made my playing ins improv skills in a huge way.

    Finding you was the best thing that happened to me and my soloing. I wish you lived next store; this way I could learn, learn and learn much more.

    Thanks for all you have done to make me a better player.

    Feel free to use this in any way that you want.

    You’re the greatest teacher; bar none!


  3. Avatar Jeff Taylor says

    Bravo!…. to pull together in one book the approaches masters have taken on a given standard seems to me to be both educational and entertaining as well as a gift to anyone seeking to understand the beautiful art of improvisation.

  4. Avatar Doc Michaud says

    You can add to those greats, solos on that tune by Don Byas, Wardell Gray, and Johnny Griffin. All are amazing, very different and unique to the artist.

    And you can add to that a great solo on that tune by Tia Fuller who asserts herself in that elite group.

  5. Thank you Steve for a great review, even though I just purchased this book because of your excellent review. I have been working with it the past 4 days and it is outstanding. Thanks again Steve for what you do for us saxophone players, all the best to you. Stephen

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