Coleman Hawkins, 1904–69, American jazz musician, b. St. Joseph, Mo. He began playing saxophone at the age of 9. He was part of Fletcher Henderson's band from 1924 until 1934. Hawkins established the tenor saxophone as a major jazz instrument. His enormous tone, vigorous attack, and improvisatory genius both in ballads and up-tempo pieces made his influence pervasive. Because his style constantly evolved, Hawkins was distinguished even in the company of avant-garde jazz musicians from 1945 until 1969.