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Johnny Hodges

Possessor of the most beautiful tone ever heard in jazz, altoist Johnny Hodges formed his style early on and had little reason to change it through the decades. Although he could stomp with the best swing players and was masterful on the blues, Hodges' luscious playing on ballads has never been topped. He played drums and piano early on before switching to soprano sax when he was 14. Hodges was taught and inspired by Sidney Bechet, although he soon used alto as his main ax; he would regretfully drop soprano altogether after 1940. His early experiences included playing with Lloyd Scott, Chick Webb, Luckey Roberts, and Willie "The Lion" Smith (1924), and he also had the opportunity to work with Bechet. However, Johnny Hodges' real career began in 1928 when he joined Duke Ellington's orchestra. He quickly became one of the most important solo stars in the band and a real pacesetter on alto; Benny Carter was his only close competition in the 1930s. Hodges was featured on a countless number of performances with Ellington and also had many chances to lead recording dates with Ellington's sidemen. Whether it was "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," "Come Sunday," or "Passion Flower," Hodges was an indispensable member of Ellington's orchestra in the 1930s and '40s. It was therefore a shock, in 1951, when he decided to leave Duke Ellington and lead a band of his own. Hodges had a quick hit in "Castle Rock" (which ironically showcased Al Sears' tenor and had no real contribution by the altoist), but his combo ended up struggling and breaking up in 1955. Hodges' return to Duke Ellington was a joyous occasion and he never really left again. In the 1960s, Hodges teamed up with organist Wild Bill Davis on some sessions, leading to Davis joining Ellington for a time in 1969. Johnny Hodges, whose unchanging style always managed to sound fresh, was still with Duke Ellington when he suddenly died in 1970. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

HODGE IS BETTER THAN SUPERB!
SAUL
Nice
therobgriff
I've been listening for 65 years to JH and to this day I still say there's never been one better.
Soulful and sensuous, happily informed by a bold -- and sometimes sly -- sense of humor.
Another sax god I never got to see. The playing speaks for itself.
rdellia
Johnny's sound still warms my soul as it did almost 50 years ago when I discovered jazz at the age of 15. Power to old school jazz!
What a passionate style...mmm!
lastgasp61
He may have had peers, but the man had a tone from heaven. It is a privilege to hear his music.
I wish Scott Yanow would spare us his highly subjective superlatives (as well as criticisms) & just stick to historic facts. Possessor of the most beautiful tone ever heard in jazz is an opinion, not a fact. I'm a musician of 40+ yrs, & an altoist for 30+, and while I recognize Hodges as a talented artist, I find his tone too saccharin & his note-bending too violin-like. While fashionable in its day, to this bopper's ears it sounds dated and corny. Scott has his opinion, I have mine. Sobei
kencsmith5
In the later part of the 60s when 33rpm stereo was new, Jonny cut an album for one of the record clubs, Decca or Columbia or so titled Blue Notes and I have never been able to find it in any of the record catalogs at music stores; it was all instrumental featuring some of the best harmonica by an artist I can't recall. Perhaps some of you have the platter.
cybermasse
Some cool,smooth Sax. Turn johnny on with the one you love,some wine and a good dinner...... s a y s it all
Johnny Hodges turns my skin to bumps and enters my soul every time I hear him. Wonderful artist and am so happy we can still hear his soulful music.
Looking down to "escobar8" I have to agree with him cause all them had serioso chops, the one thing Johnny did was to bend a note. Lush yes, just like Ben and on top of his rhythm like Lester, but the shape shift note that came out into another cord is all Johnny Hodges baby!
The Best reed of all time
dino93
Hodges' sound was so sensuous, legend has it that the wife of another member of the band told her husband, 'don't ever leave me alone in a room with Johnny Hodges.'
I have to mostly agree with the first sentence of the bio. His tone is one of the best, but you still have to consider Prez, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and, yes, Stan Getz, in that discussion.
One of the greatist sax player in my opinion.
glaronson
Rabbit says more with his horn in three minutes than most artists say in a lifetime.
This man's sound was one of the main reasons I first got in to Jazz. Amazing player
(deep, scratchy voice) "Johnny Hodges, Johnny Hodges". His gliss and bends sounded so close to the human voice that it was down right scary. "Hey who's crying over there- oh that's just ol' Hodge Podge on the wax"
I wish Johnny's Wings and Things was still in print! Great album.
If the tone is the thing than he wears the ring.

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