Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rabbit – Johnny Hodges

   For many years Johnny Hodges was playing both alto and soprano saxophones. He became soloist and leader of saxophone section in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra. After 1946 he refused to play soprano and after 1951 he started his own band. After few years he returned to play with Duke. He was one of most valued saxophonists of swing era. His solos were solidly constructed and routed with lightness, his phrases were naturally resulting from the theme. But what sank the most in memory was the sound of his saxophone, as said by Ellington, his tone was „so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eyes”. His discography is not as big as his saxophone successors but it is still impressive. Most recordings have been done with Duke Ellington, Garry Mulligan, Billy Strayhorn and trombonist Lawrence Brown.

The Rabbit – Johnny Hodges (1957)

   In 1950 Johnny Hodges came to Europe with The Duke Ellington’s Orchestra. It was first European tour after the world war. He recorded for French label Disques Vogue under the name Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra. In fact it was only combo emerged out of Duke’s orchestra members. In this „orchestra” line-up we can find best names trumpeter Harold Baker, trombonist Quintin Jackson, saxophonist Don Byas, pianist Raymond Fol, basist Wendell Marshall and drummer Sonny Greer. It was band recorded April 15, 1950. In next recording session April 20th, Don Byas was replaced by clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton and Sonny Greer by Butch Ballard. Last session June 20th, was the same line-up but without Hamilton. Of course in all sessions Johnny Hodges was playing alto saxophone.
   Recorded in Paris during three sessions, 16 pieces were previously published on 10 inch disks. The set was reedited in microgroove era and published on single LP album. 14 pieces has been released in 1957 as the 31st volume in the series for the 10th anniversary of Disques Vogue label. Microgroove haute fidélite long playing record titled The Rabbit – Johnny Hodges includes almost complete recorded material – vanished pieces are Wishing and Waiting and Last Leg Blues part 1. The same set of recordings had been published in USA by Master Jazz Recordings as A Memory of Johnny Hodges (MJR 8107). It is surprising how modern sound these improvisations. It looks just like the stars of the swing style were looking out into the direction of modernity, and not wishing to follow the be-bop musicians.

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