Johnny Hodges

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Johnny Hodges with Al Sears (in the background) in the New York jazz club Aquarium, around November 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

John Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges (born July 25, 1906 in Cambridge , Massachusetts , † May 11, 1970 in New York City ) was one of the most important alto saxophonists in classical jazz , especially swing . Hodges joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1928 and, with a brief hiatus in the 1950s, remained there until his death.

Live and act

Hodges was heavily influenced by the soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet , with whom he played for a while as a young man in the 1920s. Hodges' soprano saxophone recordings such as Rent Party Blues show the musical relationship between the two musicians.

Hodges played his instrument with a very warm, full and smooth tone. As an improviser, he was an extremely resourceful and elegant melodist. His playing style is often compared to the voice of a singer. In this way he achieved very sensual, almost erotic qualities in his music. On the one hand, expressive ballads like Day Dream or Warm Valley are combined with his style ; on the other hand, Hodges was deeply rooted in the blues tradition .

During a concert on February 6, 1965, Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst

Charlie Parker , the most important alto saxophonist in Hodges' successor, once recognized him as "The Lily Pons of the Saxophone". (Lily Pons was a very successful soprano on the opera stage in the USA in the 1930s and 1940s .) Johnny Hodges was one of the most important and musically most formative soloists in Duke Ellington's orchestra. Ellington wrote numerous pieces especially for Johnny Hodges' "Voice". Johnny Hodges was nicknamed "Rabbit" and "Jeep", which Ellington et al. a. immortalized in the songs dedicated to him Rabbit's Jump and Jeep's Blues . The composition Hodge Podge also refers to him.

After he occasionally recorded records under his own name during his time at Ellington (such as his compositions Jeep's Blues , The Jeep is Jumpin ' or Hodge Podge (1938) and Things Ain't What They Used to Be 1941), on which Ellington and whose musicians were involved ( The Duke's Men ), he left the Ellington Orchestra in 1951 to work with his own formations, including Al Sears , who was the soloist on Castle Rock , with whom Hodges did a smaller chart in March 1951 Achieved success. He returned to Ellington in 1955 and also took part in its legendary Newport appearance in 1956 , where he played two of his most famous numbers, I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) and the Jeep's Blues .

Hodges has released a variety of recordings with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and under his own name. Among other things, recordings with organist Wild Bill Davis and pianist Earl Hines deserve special mention .

Al Sears , Junior Raglin , Shelton Hemphill , Junior Raglin, Django Reinhardt , Lawrence Brown , Harry Carney and Johnny Hodges (right) in the New York Jazz Club Aquarium, around November 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

A special peculiarity of Johnny Hodges was that the saxophonist didn’t move a face even during the most soulful solos and therefore often seemed completely uninvolved.

Discographic notes



Web links

Commons : Johnny Hodges  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. DUKE ELLINGTON - ISFAHAN - played by Johnny Hodges. Retrieved May 11, 2020 .