Johnny Hodges: Jeep's Blues
Johnny Hodges (alto & soprano saxes)
Hodge Podge (Epic EK 66972)
Lawrence Brown (trombone), Billy Taylor (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).
Composed by Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges.
Recorded: New York, March 28, 1938
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
"Jeep" was the second of the nicknames Johnny Hodges had acquired ("Rabbit" being the first, from his youth). This was indeed Jeep's blues, with Hodges leading the musical movement from this small group session of members of the Ellington band. As Helen Oakley Dance said in her liner notes for the 1968 LP compilation of the 1938 and '39 sessions (she also supervised some of these recordings), "The small- band sound, the band-within-a-band, had captivated popular imagination, and Johnny Hodges's talents dominated the new trend." This track brought much admiration for the beautiful blues playing of Hodges. "Jeep's Blues" became a much-played tune; this version is my favorite of several I've heard.
The track opens with Johnny blowing the lovely and memorable theme in sublime bluesy style, including some wailing high notes on soprano sax that further deepen the impassioned playing. The small band offers perfect support, especially with full "chorus" voicings on further versions of the theme. Cootie Williams blows some searing, growling trumpet work with the mute, adding greatly to the blues feel and aesthetic texture. And Jeep's friend from his early Boston years, Harry Carney, offers a fine higher-range baritone sax break for another dimension to the musical mosaic.
Reviewer: Dean Alger