The first three albums included on this double CD contain part of Johnny Hodges' studio recordings of 1951-55 (the remainder are on Avid AMSC999). The 'missing' track from 'More' was also included on 'Castle Rock' by Norman Granz and is to be found on the other Avid release. Two tracks from the same sessions are added as a bonus to make this a complete reissue.
Hodges was not part of the Ellington orchestra at the time and leading his own group. Emmett Berry and Shorty Baker are fine trumpet players and play superbly both in ensemble and as soloists. Lawrence Brown contributes some fine trombone work to most tracks and the various tenors (including a young John Coltrane, Al Sears, Ben Webster, and Flip Phillips) are never less than interesting. The rhythm sections are all excellent - Ray Brown and Louis Bellson especially - and the arrangements both simple and effective. Johnny Hodges is at his superb best in a selection of blues, up-tempo numbers, and standards. 'Johnny's Blues', 'Sweet Georgia Brown', and 'Madam Butterfly' are outstanding but, apart from a very average 'Skokiaan', the others are nearly as good.
The final album of Gershwin numbers was recorded in 1958 in Stuttgart. Here Hodges is accompanied by a string section and the piano of Horst Jankowski. He plays beautifully and the arrangements by Russell Garcia are pleasant and unobtrusive. A pleasant session to relax to but not one of the essential Hodges albums.
Remastering is excellent and the reprinted original sleeve notes make enjoyable reading. However, the 1951-55 sessions are amongst the most important of Hodges' career and it would have been nice if they had been presented in chronological order. This however is only a small quibble and this issue, together with its companion, can be recommended without reservation.
Superlatives all the way for Johnny Hodges "Second Set", and many thanks to Avid for producing this double cd and remastering to such a high standard. Total playing time CD1...79.58 and CD2....75.40mins, and a total of 39 tracks. Music from 3 classic albums plus extras, Hodges, Webster, Coltrane, Carney, Hamilton, Brown, Bellson, and others, wonderful timeless Jazz, and a full (rare) album of Gershwin ! All this at an incredible price....what more could anyone want ! As always the beauty , inspiration, and imagination, of Johnny Hodges, floats and soars throughout these tracks. If you are familiar with his "gift" to us all, then you will know about the "potion for the soul" that he creates. If you are not aware of his work, then I would suggest that you should think about giving yourself a treat, and experience the wonder that is JOHNNY HODGES. It just does not get any better !
This is as near as dammit to a four-album package as you could wish. It begins with a 3-session album from 1952/3 titled "The Blues", on which Emmett Berry on trumpet and Lawrence Brown on trombone are the constants, and Ben Webster is present on the middle session. That's followed by all but one track of a 1954 Norman Granz production "More of JH & his Orchestra", which studio group also borrowed heavily from the Ellington band. The second CD presents the 1952 album "In a Tender Mood", which was produced over four sessions, the varying line-up being unsurprisingly not dissimilar to "The Blues", which it closely preceded. It concludes with a 1958 album "JH and his Strings play the Prettiest Gershwin" which was recorded with the Stuttgart Light Orchestra, featuring pianist Horst Jankowski.
Johnny Hodges coaxed the most ravishing and immediately identifiable tone out of Adolph Sax's somewhat unwieldy invention. These recordings embrace blues and ballads, plus the sort of riffing that recalls the Duke. That's hardly surprising because having been one of the mainstays of Ellington's Orchestra for 22 years, Hodges left in 1950. He went his own way for the next five years, before returning to the fold in 1955, and these studio sessions drew heavily on Hodges' former fellow musicians in the band. Taken together with AMSC 999, this 2-CD set presents Hodges' 1951-55 studio output which, given that this was previously issued as a Mosaic boxed set in 1989, represents a very considerable bargain.
This review primarily concerns the PRETTIEST GERSHWIN as I already owned the other titles, which by the way are good examples of Hodges style away from duke, but retaining an element of that great band through contributions by fellow ellingtonians. PRETTIEST GERSHWIN is Hodges first recording with strings and is very pleasant due to Hodges sticking close to the melody line with his superb tone and the arrangements allowing leeway for separate expression by alto sax, piano and strings. The blend of the whole is excellent for a first attempt in this idiom by a jazz legend.
Another brilliant superb value for money release from Avid. These compilation albums not only represent value for money, but excellent sound quality, two full length CDs housed in a jewel box together with an informative booklet. Although entitled "three..." There are virtually four complete albums packaged here. Three are small groups (mainly sextets) populated with "Ellingtonians" playing a varied repertoire with very little music from the Ellington "songbook" (unlike the other Avid release entitled "Four Classic albums..." that has music from the same period (1952 - 1954). This was a period when Hodges had left the Ellington band to pursue an independent career (unsuccessfully). Nevertheless these three albums have merit and are worth having, especially at this price and quality. The fourth album, from 1958, is atypical. It was recorded in Germany with Hodges and a string orchestra. It isn't really jazz, and as an album featuring a jazz soloist with strings (started by Charlie Parker ten years earlier, and followed by others including Stan Getz) is disappointing. Nevertheless the playing is exemplary. For lovers of Hodges syrupy luscious orgasmic tone this album will please.
High class music. I'd only heard Hodges when listening to Ellington, and am not a great fan of his, so this combination was a joy to listen to. Recently bought a Blue Note album to increase my knowledge of other artists and purchased this album on the back of it. I would highly recommend the Best Ever Blue Note album,and this combo. Both are clear and crisp recordings,
This is a fantastic set comprising three original Albums. Hodges interpretation of many of the numbers(Particularly the Johnny Hodges& His Strings Album)is second to none. He was after all The Duke's favourite soloist.