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Jeeps Blues Presents Early Hodges
(3 out of 5 stars)
Jeep's Blues, ASV Living Era
Many credit Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker as being the two most influential jazz alto saxophonists of the twentieth century. While Hodges spent most of his career with the Duke Ellington band he was creating an impressive body of work that earned him well-deserved accolades as one of the jazz greats.
Subtitled "his greatest recordings 1928-1941" the Jeeps Blues CD presents an overview of his formative years and a lot more. Included in the various bands are such legendary musicians as trumpeter Bubber Miley, trombonist Joe Nanton, clarinetist Barney Bigard, tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Ben Webster, pianists Billy Strayhorn, Teddy Wilson and Jess Stacy, drummer Gene Krupa, and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Along with them are selections featuring singers Mildred Bailey, Billie Holiday, and Ivie Anderson.
There are early versions of Hodges signature song Jeeps Blues and several others that he continued to record through the years. Among them are Warm Valley, Hodge Podge, and Good Queen Bess.
At 76.02 minutes and 24 songs this collection offers a lot of music, but limited time for solos, as the longest track is a little over four minutes. The first nine selections and the last two are with the Duke Ellington band. Ellington and Hodges often brought out the best in each other. Here Ellington proves to be a very funky down home blues player on Jeeps Blues and provides some nice fills and solos on other songs. In between the Ellington band are On the Sunny Side of The Street and Don't Be That Way, which Hodges recorded with the Lionel Hampton Band, and Blue Reverie from the historic Benny Goodman At Carnegie Hall concert. Six additional tracks feature the Johnny Hodges orchestra, which was composed mainly of members of the Duke Ellington band.
While Hodges seemed to always be able to rise above the most mundane material and there are some memorable solos from others unfortunately the earliest recordings are dated by a chugging, two beat rhythm section and arrangements which sometimes seem little more than businessman's bounce dance or elevator music. But the shortcomings are relatively few and worth putting up with to hear Blue Goose, Wanderlust, Never No Lament and solo gems from trumpeter Cootie Williams, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney and others. For the serious collector of Hodges music and anyone interested in the big band sounds of the late 1920s to the early 1940's, Jeeps Blues will probably prove irresistible.