Johnny Hodges - The Rabbit in Paris

Johnny Hodges was most famous for being Duke Ellington's longtime altoist and for having one of the most beautiful tones in jazz. Hodges' caressing of ballads was acclaimed (particularly in later years) but he was really a triple threat, being equally skilled on blues and stomps. Hodges was born in 1906. He briefly played drums and piano as a youth before taking up the soprano saxophone when he was 14. Sidney Bechet was an influence and a friend. Hodges switched his focus to alto although he continued doubling on soprano until 1940. He played with such groups as those led by Lloyd Scott, Chick Webb, Luckey Roberts and Willie 'The Lion' Smith, but that was just a warmup.

In 1928 Hodges joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra, staying the first time for 23 years. He immediately became the pacesetter on alto with Benny Carter being his only real competition in the 1930s. Hodges was featured regularly on Ellington's many recordings, particularly on blues and such ballads as "Come Sunday" and "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good." Although he led some record dates of his own, Johnny Hodges was considered an indispensable part of the Ellington Orchestra. It came as a complete shock to the music world in 1951 when Hodges decided to leave Duke and form his own combo. He had a hit with the r&bish "Castle Rock," which was actually a showcase for his tenor-saxophonist Al Sears. While Hodges recorded many enjoyable sessions during the next four years, his band never really caught on. In 1955 he gave up and rejoined Ellington. Hodges' vacation was over and he traveled the world as Duke Ellington's star soloist for the 15 years that preceded his 1970 death.

The Rabbit In Paris features Hodges in 1950, just a year before he decided to try to be a bandleader. The three sessions team Hodges with such Ellington sidemen as trumpeter Harold Baker, trombonist Quentin Jackson, clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton, bassist Wendell Marshall and either Sonny Greer or Butch Ballard on drums. In addition, pianist Raymond Fol is in Ellington's spot while the great tenor Don Byas is featured on four numbers. The music includes basic originals, a few standards and such Ellington favorites such as "Perdido" and "Mood Indigo." While each of the horn players has their spots, Johnny Hodges consistently takes solo honors on these swinging sides. There was no beating that tone!

SKU: IC7003

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Additional Information Listen Johnny Hodges - The Rabbit in Paris Jump That's All Last Legs Blues - Part 1 Last Legs Blues - Part 2 Nix It, Mix It Time On My Hands Run About Wishing And Waiting Get That Geet That's Grand Skip It Perdido In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree Mood Indigo Sweet Lorraine Bean Bag Boogie (Rendez-vous at the Hot Club) Hop, Skip And Jump

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Johnny Hodges
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor trumpeter - Harold Baker, trombonist - Quentin Jackson, clarinetist - Jimmy Hamilton, bassist - Wendell Marshall and either Sonny Greer or Butch Ballard on drums, Raymond Fol - pianist, Don Byas - tenor sax
SKU IC7003


Customer Reviews (2)

Sublime Rabbit!Review by Big Toots
In an era when nicknames – from cute to crude to cussed - were much more culturally commonplace, none less than Charlie Parker nicknamed Johnny Hodges “the Lily Pons of his instrument” after the legendary operatic soprano. Of course, there were other well-known appellations for Hodges (including “Jeep” and “Rabbit”), but neither of those accurately describe what was and is considered to be the most beautiful alto saxophone sound this side of Marcel Mule –or the Angels for that matter.

The Rabbit in Paris was recorded in 1950 with Johnny leading a select group of his Duke Ellington band mates. The octet carried all of the Ellington stylistic enchantment with them into this session (even though Duke was contractually not available to play). Here is the terrific Ellington ensemble swing, the fiercely inspired soloists and driving rhythm. 16 selections, including 7 Hodges originals, have the band brilliantly responding to Hodges superb alto example. Of particular interest are Hodges’s pre-Bop-tinged solos on “Nix It, Mix It” and “Perdido.” The never-before-or-after-duplicated Johnny Hodges alto sound is splendidly present, too (“Time on My Hands,” “Wishing and Waiting,” “That’s Grand”). “Mood Indigo” and “Sweet Lorraine” offer luscious Johnny, as smooth as any silk Miss Pons might wear.

As you’d expect from anything Ellington – all here are able soloists in their own right – they individually shine. Trumpeter Harold Baker, who, while not as well-known as Anderson, Stewart, Williams and Terry is a gem. Clarinet wizard, Jimmy Hamilton, tenor saxophonist, Don Byas, and bone man, Quentin Jackson are marvelous. The rhythm section propels.

Johnny Hodges, whether in Paris or Timbuktu is always divine, as is this entire effort. I wonder if Diva Pons was ever called “the Johnny Hodges of the Met.”
(Posted on 5/3/2015)
Johnny Hodges: The Rabbit In ParisReview by Simon Sez
When it came to playing pure beauty, Johnny Hodges couldn’t be beat. And yet he was a contradiction, or perhaps a masterful actor. When he was featured on a ballad with Duke Ellington, Hodges would walk slowly to the microphone, looking completely bored, as if he would rather not be bothered. He’d have a frown on his face, put his horn next to the microphone and then make the most beautiful sounds one could ever hear. That trick worked every time!
On The Rabbit In Paris, Hodges is heard in 1950 away from the world of Ellington but still sounding like he was playing in the band. Whether blues, swinging tunes or ballads, he plays quite beautifully with a tone that no one else could duplicate. Don Byas, a great tenor player who was forgotten in the U.S. by that time, also does well on these dates.

Simon Sez: No one played with beauty than Johnny Hodges. The Rabbit In Paris (IC7003) finds Hodges (“Rabbit”) at his best in 1950. (Posted on 5/7/2014)

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