Personnel: Duke Ellington (piano); Johnny Hodges (alto saxophone); Harry
"Sweets" Edison (trumpet); Les Spann (guitar); Al Hall, Sam Jones (bass);
Jo Jones (drums).
Original producer: Norman Granz.
Reissue producer: Michael Lang.
Recorded at Columbia Studios, New York, New York, February 20, 1959. Originally released on Verve (6055). Includes liner notes by Leonard Feather and Michael Ullman.
Digitally remastered using 20-bit technology by Chris Herles (PolyGram Studios).
The Duke is most often remembered leading his large orchestras, yet throughout his career he would take "breaks" to record many fine small-group sessions. This gem features long-time Ellington player Johnny Hodges, who, in the '50s, struck out on his own. His solo career produced fine music but little financial success, so he rejoined Duke's organization. On this session, the blues forms the common ground on which both men meet.
All of these songs were composed between 1910 and 1930, and these cats slip in and walk about in them like a comfy pair of bedroom slippers. Ellington's piano is spare and understated; he gives the spotlight to Johnny. Hodges wails the late-night blues with a combination of gentility, passion and sly wit. Harry Edison's trumpet (he played on many Frank Sinatra sessions in the '50s and '60s) is a joy. Hodges was truly one of a kind--after all, how many saxophonists were admired by both tenor sax innovator John Coltrane and easy-listening bandleader Lawrence Welk? All in all, a richly rewarding collaborative project.
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