My wife, I, and another couple went to a nightclub many years ago.  Coleman Hawkins was appearing there.  For some reason which I can’t remember we had to leave quickly.  Coleman Hawkins came over to us and asked us to stay, but I told him we had to leave.  I felt badly because there weren’t many people in the club and apparently Hawk was disappointed in the small turnout.

Hawkins, Milan 1967: Photograph by Roberto Polillo


At a later date I met someone who told me this story.  He was on a cruise and there were two bands playing in different ballrooms, Coleman Hawkins, and a rock group.  The rock group had many people there, but Hawk had only a few. These are two sad stories which came later in Hawk’s life, but it seems that he lost his audience near the end of his career. 


  1. Sad. About a decade ago, I walked into a club in London, UK, with my teenage son to see Richie Cole. There were maybe 10 people in the house, including Richie’s wife. He came over and chatted with me and my son about music, trumpet players, Trenton, NJ and life. A wonderful guy.

    The club’s gone. No surprise. Thank God Richie’s still with us.

  2. Very quietly, I want to second your comment and say that people can’t complain about clubs closing if they (the audience) don’t go to them, buy drinks, eat dinner. And if they wonder why some musicians are seriously mournful about the state of the music, they (the audience) have a restorative role to play in its survival. Thanks for the sad tale! Michael

  3. At least he was fortunate enough to have lived in an age where small audiences were not the norm. I know many gifted jazzers that often have to pay a club up front so they can perform there. Musicians must now gaurantee that the club owner gets paid. I’ve played several gigs when no one showed up and luckily we still got paid as contracted. The better the music, the more the risk of a tiny audience, be it jazz or classical. Pay is totally dependent upon marketing and public perception. I think you know that.

  4. Michael, didn’t mean to get so down in that comment. I learned from Marc Meyers – JazzWax that that dude Jarod Loughner was a jazzer of sorts. That got me singing the blues a bit. Your blog is great helps me to maintain a very positive outlook, most of the time. Sorry. Best wishes. Win Hinkle.

  5. Michele Malvern

    As a fledgeling jazz alto sax player–who’s @ an age where most saxophonists have been playing a LONG time–these comments are a bit discouraging. Of course, I play for the challenge and the love of the music. BUT, as a former circus performer who ONCE (only once) did a show when the audience of 5 people was outnumbered exponentially by the performers-incl. a live circus band of 11 musicians-the energy and monetary support an audience provides are essential to the show.

  6. You play for yourself; you play for your colleagues in the band; you play for the one person in the room who’s listening. When I have to get up before an audience, I look for the one enthusiastic face in the crowd and speak to him or her. Love, said Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, will find a way! Fledglings become beutiful birds, they do. . . .

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