2. First Klass (C'mon Home)
3. The Jeep Is Jumpin'
4. Broadway Babe
7. June's Jumpin'
8. 9.20 Special
Alan Barnes - Alto sax, baritone sax
Scott Hamilton - Tenor sax
David Newton - Piano
Chris Hill - Double bass
Sebastiaan de Krom - Drums
The muscular drum introduction to this album raised my spirits, as Sebastiaan de Krom can be a rather more outgoing drummer than the rather polite Steve Brown who Alan Barnes has used a lot. And Alan's old college chum David Newton is at the piano, so we are all set for a swinging affair, which is precisely what we get.
This is the second collaboration on disc between Barnes and tenorist Scott Hamilton and they work together with perfect empathy. Alan chose six Johnny Hodges tunes as the basis for this album - and his sleeve-note recounts that Hamilton previously knew none of them but immediately picked them up from hearing Barnes play them once through, unaccompanied.
Of course, Johnny Hodges was a masterly saxophonist but he also wrote some memorable tunes, many of them for the small-group sessions with Ellingtonians and his later work with Wild Bill Davis. One of the best-known is The Jeep is Jumpin', which actually dates back to 1938. Alan Barnes and his friends play it with the requisite verve, with David Newton taking a discreetly swinging piano solo and the two saxophonists joyfully swapping fours towards the end. Hodge-Podge is another number that dates from 1938, taken here at an easy loping pace.
Many jazz fans will know these two Hodges compositions but how many have heard of the title-track, Hi-Ya, which was a collaboration between Hodges and Billy Strayhorn? It opens the album with a bang and illustrates Scott Hamilton's nonchalant swing and his warm tone (in the fine tradition of Getz and Sims). Barnes's alto is tunefully agile, as is David Newton's piano (with a brief sally into Les McCann-land), and Sebastiaan de Krom builds some splendid breaks. First Klass (also known as C'mon Home) is similarly little-known, yet you would have thought that its immediately appealing melody would have made it a jazz standard. It is another of those easy lopes that this group tackles so well. Scott delivers a beautifully spacious solo and Alan is eloquent on alto.
Broadway Babe was co-written by Mercer Ellington and Johnny Hodges, and first recorded by "Mercer Ellington and his Orchestra" in 1958. It's a gently bluesy number. Yet another unfamiliar Hodges composition is June's Jumpin', appropriately recorded by a Hodges small group in June 1947. It gives Barnes the chance for some alto pyrotechnics and David Newton adds a well-spaced solo.
The set is completed by two non-Hodges compositions: the well-known Candy and the Basie favourite 9.20 Special. The former begins with Scott Hamilton saying to David Newton "Make us an intro and let's play", after which he and Alan (on baritone sax) interpret the melody with the utmost tenderness. 9.20 Special has Barnes on baritone again, this time gutsier. Hamilton is more laid-back but he still swings dependably. Sebastiaan de Krom's drum interludes are marvellous.
If Alan Barnes is thinking of recording more Hodges compositions, perhaps I could steer him towards Rockville or Hash Brown (the signature tune of a certain jazz programme) - both from 1966 sessions. But, frankly, I am happy to hear Alan playing anything at all: it's always fine.