Johnny Hodges – ‘In Concert’
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(Steeplechase Records. Album review by Olie Brice)
In March 1961 the Duke Ellington band were given two weeks off mid-European tour, to allow Ellington to complete work on the soundtrack to the film Paris Blues. The band used the time to go on the road under Johnny Hodges’ leadership, with recordings already existing of dates in Berlin and Paris, but now this release adds a further live recording to the story, recorded in Copenhagen on 17 March 1961. With Al Williams replacing Ellington on piano, the group is a glorious line-up of one of the great Ellington combinations, a front-line of Hodges, Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown and Harry Carney, and a rhythm section of Aaron Bell on bass and Sam Woodyard on drums.
Playing an almost entirely Ellington/Strayhorn repertoire, this could hardly fail to be a joyous listen. The whole band are on great form, swinging like mad, soloing inventively and clearly enjoying themselves playing such fantastic and familiar compositions. Harry Carney especially gets more solo room than on most Ellington albums and sounds at the very height of his powers. The recording is really good as well – while it isn’t clear from the liner-notes the excellent sound would suggest it was probably recorded for radio or similar.
There was a spate of wonderful records in the 60s featuring Ellington bands playing Ellington material without him – particular favourites of mine are Lawrence Brown’s ‘Inspired Abandon’ and Earl Hines’ ‘Once Upon a Time’. This recording maybe isn’t quite as essential as those two, but its a fantastic recording of truly great musicians having a great time playing truly great music – who could ask for anything more?
LINK. Buy “In Concert”