Johnny Hodges: You Need To Rock


You Need To Rock


Johnny Hodges (alto sax)


Side By Side (Verve 8215782)

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Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Billy Strayhorn (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Jo Jones (drums).

Composed by Johnny Hodges


Recorded: New York, August 14, 1958


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Given its title and 1958 vintage, "You Need To Rock" might figure as an attempt by Swing Era stalwarts— all, except Roy Eldridge and Jo Jones, veterans of the Duke Ellington band—to cash in on the burgeoning popularity of rock 'n' roll. But the wellspring in this case was Jump Blues, not rock. The septet with a 4-horn front line doing a simple riff-based tune set to a driving shuffle rhythm was standard Jump Blues fare.

In 1958, however, Jump Blues no longer dominated the R&B charts as it had done during and for a while after World War II. By the mid-'50s, the crossover success of such Jump Blues stars as Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five had ceded to the wider (read whiter) appeal of Bill Haley & His Comets. In that light, Johnny Hodges seemed like Johnny Come Lately to Jump Blues.

Yet timely or not, "You Need To Rock" is sho' nuff fun. Jo Jones opens with an uncharacteristic drumming style, which he does up right proper, thanks very much. Rascally Roy takes the first solo with his familiar burry bravado. Next Big Ben rings in for what starts mildly enough, but soon devolves into growling like a rottweiler late for his nap. After the ever-elegant Lawrence Brown disports his legato, trilling, vibrato-laden trombone, leader Hodges planes off any remaining rough edges without in the least shaving the swing.

Born John Cornelius Hodges in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Johnny Hodges was far from the backwoods Louisiana country-boy mythologized just five months earlier in Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." And in no event did John Cornelius Hodges play his alto sax like a ringin' bell. Even so, in listening to (and even better, jitterbugging to) this happy track, one may be forgiven a shout or two of "Go Johnny Go!"

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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