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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JOHNNY HODGES

Three Classic Albums Plus:
Second Set

Avid AMSC 1040

 

 

CD1
The Blues
1. Rosanne
2. Hodge-Podge
3. Jappa
4. Through For The Night
5. Sheik Of Araby
6. Latino
7. Johnny's Blues
8. Indiana
9. Easy Going Bounce
10. Burgundy Walk
More Of Johnny Hodges
11. Ballad Medley: Autumn In New York; Sweet Lorraine; Time On My Hands; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; If You Were Mine; Poor Butterfly; All Of Me
12. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
13. Warm Valley
14. Madam Butterfly
15. Skokiaan
16. Used To Be Duke
 
Johnny Hodges - Alto sax plus:
Tracks 1-3
Emmett Berry - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Ben Webster - Tenor sax
Leroy Lovett - Piano
Red Callender - Bass
J.C. Heard - Drums
Tracks 4- 6
Emmett Berry - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Ben Webster - Tenor sax
Rudy Williams - Tenor sax
Ted Brannon - Piano
Barney Richmond - Bass
Al Walker - Drums
Tracks 7-9
Emmett Berry - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Arthur Clarke - Tenor sax
Leroy Lovett - Piano
Ray Brown - Bass
J.C. Heard - Drums
Track 10
Shorty Baker - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Call Cobbs - Piano
John Wlliams - Bass
Louis Bellson - Drums
Tracks 11-16
Shorty Baker - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet
Harry Carney - Baritone sax
Call Cobbs - Piano
John Williams - Bass
Louis Bellson - Drums
 
CD2
In A Tender Mood
1. Who's Excited
2. Sweepin' The Blues Away
3. Standing Room Only
4. Below The Azores
5. Sweet Georgia Brown
6. Duke's Blues
7. Tenderly
8. Tea For Two
9. What's I'm Gotchere
10. Nothin' Yet
More Of Johnny Hodges
11. Sweet As Bear Meat
Johnny Hodges and his Strings Play the Prettiest Gershwin
12. Love Is Here To Stay
13. Nice Work If You Can Get It
14.'S Wonderful
15. Summertime
16. Soon
17. But Not For Me
18. Somebody Loves Me
19. They Can't Take That Away From Me
20. Someone To Watch Over Me
21. They All Laughed
22. The Man I Love
23. Oh, Lady Be Good
 
Johnny Hodges - Alto sax plus:
Tracks 1-4
Emmett Berry - Trumpet
Lawrence Brown - Trombone
Al Sears - Tenor sax
Leroy Lovett - Piano
Lloyd Trotman - Bass
Joe Marshall - Drums
Tracks 5-8
As above except:
Barney Richmond - Bass
Tracks 9, 10
As above except:
Flip Phillips - Tenor sax
Red Callender - Bass
J.C. Heard - Drums
Track 11
Same as CD1 tracks 11-16
Tracks 12-23
Russell Garcia - Arranger
Horst Jankowski - Piano
Wolfram Rohrig - Conductor, Stuttgart Light Orchestra

 

If Paul Desmond's alto playing was likened to a dry martini, then Johnny Hodges' efforts might be compared to a Manhattan: dark, warm, and mellow. Blessed with an extraordinary tone and an easily recognizable style, Hodges became a trendsetter on alto throughout his career. This Avid Jazz two-CD collection is taken primarily from the period when Hodges was on a sabbatical from the Duke Ellington orchestra.

CD1 begins with the album The Blues which was originally released in 1956 by Norman Granz on his Norgran label. The blues, ballads, and swing have been genres in which Hodges has excelled and the selections on this album give Hodges a chance to shine on all these fronts. Starting off with a ballad entitled Rosanne, Hodges is clearly on form and delivers accordingly. Ex-Ellingtonians Lawrence Brown on trombone and Ben Webster on tenor sax add strength to the front line that also has trumpeter Emmett Berry. These players swing in delightful fashion on Hodge-Podge with Webster's gruff tone in strong evidence. The balance of the tracks that comprise this album continue to offer the group musical staples on which to test their mettle both as an ensemble and individually.

More Of Johnny Hodges is the following album, but it could present some confusion, because according to some discographies, it has also been released under the title Used To Be Duke, which in many ways may be more reflective of the contents and musicians. The Ellington sound is more prevalent in these sessions with the inclusion of many of the Duke's former and then current band members such as Shorty Baker on trumpet, Lawrence Brown on trombone, Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet, Harry Carney on baritone sax and Louis Bellson on drums. Given such a particularly strong group it made sense to start off with a lengthy Ballad Medley, where each musician was given the appropriate solo space to highlight their mastery. Especially noteworthy is Hodges' evocative playing on Sweet Lorraine, a sweet-sounding Baker in Time On My Hands, a very lyrical Carney on Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and, outdoing everyone, Jimmy Hamilton with an absolutely gorgeous rendition of If You Were Mine. Of the remaining cuts, there is a swinging version of On The Sunny Side Of The Street and a jumping romp of a Hodges original Used To Be Duke.

CD2 contains the albums In A Tender Mood and Johnny Hodges and his Strings Play the Prettiest Gershwin along with a leftover track from More Of Johnny Hodges. As to the first album it is, for the most part, a continuation of The Blues from CD1. It was recorded at more or less the same time period, with similar instrumentation but slightly different personnel. The initial tracks spin along in the same Ellingtonian manner until Sweet Georgia Brown, when the band takes off in an extended version of the tune. There is an expressive muted trumpet solo from Emmett Berry, Hodges darting and weaving his alto magic, and Brown growls though several choruses on trombone. This is followed by a Hodges original Duke's Blues and again the band both collectively and individually romps into the tune. On Tenderly Hodges really shows his majesty with all his style flourishes on display.

The word schmaltz is defined as "excessive sentimentality especially in music". Regrettably that seems to be the best description of the final album on this disc. While Hodges is in fine solo form, the lugubrious string arrangements by Russell Garcia, all done mid-tempo, do not challenge Hodges' imagination nor push his inventiveness. Given the strong outings by Hodges and cohorts on the other albums, this session is rather a disappointment. It is however, beautifully recorded with a luscious stereo sound.

This release, along with the previous Hodges set on Avid (AMSC 999), completes Hodges' solo work during the period 1951-1955 when he was away from the Duke Ellington band. Taken together, these small-group classic sessions are a reminder of the creativity that made Hodges such a compelling jazz musician.

Pierre Giroux



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