Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Johnny Hodges on Lone Hill Jazz

During the sixties, while actively touring, recording and serving as one of the star soloists in the relentlessly restless Duke Ellington Orchestra, the great alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1906-70) maintained a pretty active social life as a leader himself. Hodges often appeared on the Verve label and most frequently in the company of organist Wild Bill Davis (1918-95).

There was an influx of new talent coming into jazz during this period and many of the Johnny Hodges records of the sixties capitalized on this fact, to almost no fanfare then and far too little remembrance today.

Of course, a great deal of Duke Ellington’s music – and Billy Strayhorn’s too – can be heard here and superbly appreciated in a vastly different environment than Ellington often provided for the saxophonist.

Johnny Hodges had one of the most beautiful and distinctive sounds in all of jazz – a wail of love that was like one of the aural world’s most unique voices: sad and unyielding but powerfully uplifting all the same. Ellington himself wrote plenty of features for the alto saxophonist throughout Hodges’s long tenure with the orchestra, including “Jeep’s Blues,” “Hodge Podge” and, of course, “Isfahan.”

Wild Bill Davis proved to be an amiable and most remarkable foil for the saxophonist. Davis himself joined the Ellington orchestra from 1969 to 1971 and can be heard on some of Hodges’s last recordings with Ellington, namely on the exceptional New Orleans Suite (Atlantic, 1970).

The Spanish label Lone Hill Jazz has picked up many of Johnny Hodges’s records, especially those many forgotten releases of the 1960s, reissuing on CD a great number of wonderful performances that amount to something of a definitive study of the alto saxophonist during the period. The quality of the recordings is quite good and, in most likelihood, the releases are quite legitimate.

However you look at it, it’s great to have so much of Johnny Hodges’s formidable recordings available on CD. All of these recordings are wonderful to witness and a very highly recommended part of Ellingtonian musical lore. (Please note: the listings below correspond to tracks issued on the original LPs. None of the CDs detailed here contain any of the unissued tracks from the original recording sessions.)

Blue Hodge - Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis Featuring Les Spann & Mundell Lowe: Combines the entire August 1961 recording Blue Hodge (Verve V6-8406) with Johnny Hodges on alto sax, Wild Bill Davis on organ, Les Spann on guitar and flute, Sam Jones on Bass and Louis Hayes on drums (featuring the three Gary McFarland compositions “Blue Hodge,” “Why Are You Blue?” and “Knuckles”) with the seven April 1964 recordings issued on Blue Rabbit (Verve V6-8599 – the remainder of this LP’s titles are included on the CD Mess of Blues below) with Johnny Hodges, Wild Bill Davis, Mundell Lowe on guitar, Richard Davis on bass and Osie Johnson on drums and the four October 1966 tracks from Blue Notes (Verve V6-8680 – the remainder of this LP’s titles are included on the CD Con Soul & Jazz – Wild Bill Is The Boss! below). Tracks:

01. And Then Some
02. I Wonder Why
03. Azure Te
04. Blue Hodge
05. Hodge Podge
06. It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream
07. Why Are You Blue?
08. Knuckles
09. Stand By Blues
10. There Is No Greater Love
11. Blues O'Mighty
12. Fiddler's Fancy
13. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
14. Wisteria
15. Satin Doll
16. Mud Pie
17. Rent City
18. Sometimes I'm Happy
19. The Midnight Sun Will Never Set
20. Sneakin' Up On You

Buenos Aires Blues - Johnny Hodges Quintet with Lalo Schifrin: Combines the 1973 album Previously Unreleased Recordings (Verve V6-8834), a March 1963 recording that was not issued for some reason at the time, featuring the piano and arrangements of Lalo Schifrin, and the entire 1962 album The Eleventh Hour (Verve V6-8492), an August 1962 recording featuring Johnny Hodges paired with a string orchestra arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson. On the 1963 recording, Hodges and Schifrin are accompanied by Barry Galbraith on guitar, George Duvivier on bass and Dave Bailey on drums (two Schifrin originals are here too: “Dreary Days” and “B.A. Blues”). The 1962 recording features Hodges and Oliver Nelson’s orchestra accompanied by Bernie Leighton on piano and organ, George Duvivier on bass, Osie Johnson on drums. Tracks:

01. Mama Knows
02. I’m In Another World
03. Dreary Days
04. I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
05. B. A. Blues
06. Wanderlust
07. All Too Soon
08. Somebody Loves Me
09. Away From You
10. Something To Live For
11. In A Sentiment Mood
12. I Didn’t Know About You
13. Guitar Amour
14. You Blew Out The Flame (In My Heart)
15. Theme From “The Eleventh Hour”
16. Love song From “Mutiny on the Bounty”
17. Solitude
18. Satin Doll
19. Don’t Blame Me
20. Prelude To A Kiss
21. Warm Valley

Mess Of Blues - Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis Featuring Kenny Burrell: Combines the entire September 1963 recording Mess of Blues (Verve V6-8570) with Johnny Hodges on alto sax, Wild Bill Davis on organ, Kenny Burrell on guitar and Ed Shaunessey or Osie Johnson on drums with the three May 1963 Burrell tracks from Blue Rabbit (Verve V6-8599 – the remainder of this LP’s titles are included on the CD Blue Hodge above) featuring Hodges, Davis and Burrell as well as Jack Lesberg or Wendell Marshall on bass and Bobby Durham on drums and the entire January 1966 recording of Stride Right with Hodges and Burrell and Earl Hines on organ and piano, Richard Davis on bass and Joe Marshall on drums. Tracks:

01. Jones
02. I Cried For You
03. Love You Madly
04. Little John, Little John
05. Stolen Sweets
06. A & R Blues
07. Lost In Meditation
08. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
09. Tangerine
10. Creole Love Call
11. Caution Blues (Blues In Thirds)
12. Stride Right
13. Rosetta
14. Perdido
15. Fantastic, That's You
16. Tale Of The Fox
17. I'm Beginning To See Th e Light
18. C Jam Blues
19. Tippin' In

Joe’s Blues - Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis Featuring Grant Green: Combines the entire January 1965 recording of Joe’s Blues (Verve V6-8617) with Lawrence Brown on trombone, Johnny Hodges on alto sax, Wild Bill Davis on organ, Grant Green on guitar, Bob Bushnell or Bob Cranshaw on bass and Grady Tate on drums with the entire July 1965 recording of Wings & Things (Verve V6-8630), featuring Brown, Hodges and Green as well as Wild Bill Davis on organ for five of the album’s eight tracks, Hank Jones on piano for three tracks, Richard Davis on bass and Ben Dixon on drums. Tracks:

01. Joe's Blues
02. I'll Walk Alone
03. Harmony In Harlem
04. Warm Valley
05. Wild Bill Blues
06. Somebody Loves Me
07. Solitude
08. Clementine
09. Wings And Things
10. Spotted Dog
11. Casanova
12. Dow De Dow Dow Dow
13. Peg O' My Heart
14. The Nearness Of You
15. Imbo
16. Take The "A" Train

Con Soul & Jazz – Wild Bill Is The Boss! - Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis: Combines the entire January 1965 recording of Con Soul & Sax (RCA LPM-3393) with Wild Bill Davis on organ, Johnny Hodges on alto sax, Dickie Thompson and Mundell Lowe on guitar, Milt Hinton or George Duvivier on bass and Osie Johnson on drums with the entire Wild Bill Davis & Johnny Hodges In Atlantic City (RCA LPM-3706) –which has been issued as a domestic CD – with Davis and Hodges accompanied by Lawrence Brown on trombone, Bob Brown on tenor sax and flute, Dickie Thompson on guitar and Bobby Durham on drums and the entire Blue Pyramid (Verve V6-8635) recorded on three occasions between November 1965 and January 1966 (in between the sessions which yielded the underrated session with Lawrence Welk, of all people!) with Hodges accompanied by Larry Young on organ (!), Bill Sacher on guitar, Bob Bushnell on bass and Joe Marshall on drums on one track and Lawrence Brown on trombone, Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet, Wild Bill Davis on organ, Billy Butler on guitar, Bob Bushnell on bass and Herbie Lovelle, Johnny Hodges, Jr. or Joe Marshall on drums. Also included on this double-disc CD are five of the nine tracks of the 1966 Johnny Hodges album Blue Notes (Verve V6-8680 – without Wild Bill Davis – the remainder of this LP’s tracks are issued on the CD Blue Hodge above) and the only four tracks of Johnny Hodges’s almost unknown 1963 album Sandy’s Gone (Verve V6-8561), arranged by Claus Ogerman, that feature Wild Bill Davis (“Sandy's Gone,” “Candy's Theme,” “The Caretakers Theme” and “Again”). Tracks:

CD 1
01. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
02. On Green Dolphin Street
03. Lil' Darlin'
04. Con Soul And Sax
05. The Jeep Is Jumpin,'
06. I'm Beginning To See The Light
07. Sophisticated Lady
08. Drop Me Off In Harlem
09. No One
10. Johnny Come Lately
11. Just Squeeze Me
12. It's Only A Paper Moon
13. Taffy
14. Good Queen Bess
15. L.B. Blues
16. In A Mellow Tone
17. Rockville

CD 2
01. I'll Always Love You
02. It Don't Mean A Thing
03. Belle Of The Belmont
04. Blues For Madeleine
05. When I'm Feeling Kinda Blue
06. Pyramid
07. Nonchalance
08. At Dawn
09. Th e Brown-Skin Gal In The Calico Gown
10. Stormy Weather
11. Rabbit Out Of The Hat
12. Hash Brown
13. Blue Notes
14. Say It Again
15. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me
16. Broad Walk
17. L.B. Blues
18. Sandy's Gone
19. Candy's Theme
20. The Caretakers Theme
21. Again

What’s not here (yet): Eight tracks from the little-known Sandy’s Gone (four tracks from this LP appear on the CD Con Soul & Jazz – Wild Bill Is The Boss! above); Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (Impulse, 1964 – issued on domestic CD); the surprisingly wonderful Lawrence Welk & Johnny Hodges (Dot, 1965 – issued on domestic CD); Triple Play (RCA, 1967 – issued on domestic CD); Don’t Sleep In The Subway (Verve, 1967); Swing’s Our Thing (Verve, 1967) with Earl “Fatha” Hines; the very good Rippin’ and Runnin’ (Verve, 1968), with Billy Gardner on organ, Jimmy Ponder on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and Freddy Waits on drums; and the tremendous Three Shades of Blue (Flying Dutchman, 1970 – issued on French CD), arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson.

For more information - and many more Johnny Hodges recordings from the 1940s and 1950s - visit Fresh Sound Records, which also features the Lone Hill Jazz set by Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Hodges, The Stanley Dance Sessions, a compilation of the 1959 Strayhorn septet album Cue For Saxophone (with Hodges listed as "Cue Porter") and the 1961 Verve album Johnny Hodges, Soloist/Billy Strayhorn and The Orchestra.

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