Dan’s Advent Saxophone Calendar #8 – Johnny Hodges

When Charlie Parker thinks you’re one of the greatest Alto players ever, you were John Coltrane’s hero & the greatest composer in Jazz loved your tone, you know you’re a pretty good player.

Day 8 of our Advent Calendar features Alto Saxophonist Johnny Hodges.  Hodges, or ‘Rabbit’ was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1907, but he grew up in Boston.  His first instruments were the piano and drums, switching to the Soprano Saxophone in his teens and after hearing Sidney Bechet aged 14, knew he wanted to make music is full time career.

He joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in 1928 & Ellington’s practice of writing tunes specifically for members of his orchestra resulted in the Hodges specialties, “Confab with Rab”, “Jeep’s Blues”, “Sultry Sunset”, and “Hodge Podge”. Other songs recorded by the Ellington Orchestra which prominently feature Hodges’ smooth alto saxophone sound are “Magenta Haze”, “Prelude to a Kiss“, “Haupe” (from Anatomy of a Murder) – note also the “seductive” and hip-swaying “Flirtibird”, featuring the “irresistibly salacious tremor” by Hodges, “The Star-Crossed Lovers” from Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder suite, “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)“, “Blood Count” and “Passion Flower”.