Altoist Johnny Hodges and organist Wild Bill Davis made quite a few records together during the 1960s, although each of their efforts had slightly different personnel. In the case of this long out-of-print Verve LP, they are assisted by trombonist Lawrence Brown, guitarist Grant Green, bassist Richard Davis, drummer Ben Dixon and, on three numbers, pianist Hank Jones. With the exception of "Take the 'A' Train" and the two ballads "The Nearness of You" and "Peg O' My Heart," the material (including three Hodges originals and Duke Ellington's "Imbo") is quite obscure. The group always swings, and it is interesting to hear Hodges in this setting; pity that this LP's music has not yet been reissued on CD.
This release presents two albums by Johnny Hodges, recorded outside of the Ellington setting and both appearing here on CD for the first time ever. The first, which was originally released as PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED RECORDINGS, is in quintet format and marks Hodges only recorded encounter ever with Argentinean pianist and composer Lalo Schifrin, who contributes two compositions. While the second album, THE ELEVENTH HOUR, showcases the saxophonist soloing on standard tunes with a big band of winds & strings, conducted & arranged by Oliver Nelson.
One of the giants of the alto saxophone, Johnny Hodges was perhaps the most important soloist and sideman in Duke Ellington's orchestra from 1928 up to Hodges' death in 1970. The self-taught player made many solo forays during his long career - one of his '50s outfits included a young John Coltrane - but history remembers Hodges for his virtuosic sidemanship, particularly his sensitive rendering of ballads.
The disc contains two original lp recordings, the first, The Eleventh Hour", was recorded in August, 1962, and the second "Sandy's Gone", in September, 1963. Both were/are on Verve. The Eleventh Hour finds Mr. Hodges with strings turning in twelve lush and rich tracks which may well be appropriate listening at the eleventh hour. Jazz musicians with strings? Well it worked with Ben Webster, Charlie Parker (both on Verve by the way) and with Art Pepper on the Winter Moon sessions. Now the named were all master musicians who seem perfectly at home in this rather unusual setting. Hodges is no exception and provides us with some truly beautiful music. Mr. Ellington would surely have approved. The second recording is…