Jerry Vivino: Picks
Johnny Hodges was born on July 25th 1906 in Cambridge, Mass. At the tender age of 14, he began teaching himself the soprano saxophone and later the alto saxophone. As he progressed, his sister introduced him to the great Sydney Bechet, one of the great jazz soprano saxophonists and clarinetists of his time, who eventually gave Hodges his first formal lessons.
In 1924, Bechet brought the 18-year-old Hodges into his Club Basha at 2493 Seventh Ave. and West 145th St. in Harlem. Hodges continued to live in Boston and traveled to NYC every weekend to play with musicians such as Bobby Sawyer and Lloyd Scott.
During 1926 and 1927, he became a part of the great Chick Webb's band, performing at The Paddock Club and The Savoy Ballroom. In May of 1928, when he was only 21, Hodges was recruited into Duke Ellington's orchestra and remained with Ellington for the next 40 years! He made hundreds of recordings with Duke. In 1937, Hodges also formed his own small group and co-wrote with Ellington. Successful titles for RCA Victor and other labels included Epps Blues, Hodge Podge, The Jeep Is Jumpin’ and You Need to Rock.
Hodges was a star in Ellington's band and this paved the way for him to play with many other small groups with musicians such as Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson. In 1951, Johnny formed a small group with Lawrence Brown and Sonny Greer, both members of the Ellington Band. In their first recording session they produced a hit record, Castle Rock.
in 1955, after a brief run on the Ted Steele television show, he gigged primarily with Ellington for the rest of his life. Many saxophonists such as John Coltrane and Ben Webster admired Johnny Hodges. Coltrane said that Hodges was one of his favorites.
Johnny Hodges died of a heart attack on May 11th 1970. The music he made came from his deep inner soul. He was a beautiful player with tremendous technique and passion, producing a sound on the alto sax that was and always will be his own. I highly recommend Side By Side by Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges on Verve Records. Give it a listen...I can't stop playing this recording.
Let me know what you think.
Jerry Vivino - March, 2004
Side By Side
Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges, alto sax; Duke Ellington, piano; Harry Sweets Edison, trumpet; Al Hall, bass; Les Spann, guitar & flute; Jo Jones, drums; Ben Webster, tenor sax; Roy Eldredge, trumpet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Wendell Marshall, bass and Billy Strayhorn, piano. (Polygram)
Do you know who Red Prysock was? Well, check this out!
Red Prysock was born on February 2nd, 1926 in Greensboro, North Carolina. In the 1940's thru the 1950’s, the saxophone was always featured as the solo instrument on most every blues and R&B recording. The sax, not the guitar, was the rockin' instrument of that era. This gave many a saxophonist the opportunity to stand up and shine. Red did just that.
In 1944, at 18 years of age, Red joined the biggest band in the nation--the US Army Band, keeping him off the front lines. After his discharge from the service in 1947, Red immediately hooked up with the Tiny Grimes Band. He played as a sideman for Tiny for three years and recorded two albums. Red's solos were so dynamic that the agents and record labels took notice. In 1955, the Gale Agency sent Red out on the road with his own band. His performances, punctuated by animalistic honks and squealing high notes, would bring his audience into absolute and unfettered pandemonium. Red and his band also backed the great Al Hibler and Sarah Vaughn. Talk about musicianship...Red could rock out...swing....or bop out--he had it all covered.
In 1955 and 1956, Red hit the charts with eight different singles: Rock ‘N Roll, Zonked, Hand Clappin’, Short Circuit, Zip, Fruit Boots, Rock ‘N Roll Party and Paquino Walk.
He also recorded an uncredited performance, B.B. King’s, Woke Up This Morning with his brother Arthur. Remember Arthur Prysock? He had a huge disco hit in November of 1976, When Love Is New, which peaked at #10 and charted for 18 weeks on the R&B charts.
Red’s Hand Clappin’ was re-released in 1962. The great Red Prysock died on July 18th 1993. I strongly recommend that you check out Rock and Roll: The Best Of Red Prysock (Polygram) or the easier to find Swingstation. Red Prysock's style had a very positive influence on my playing. Thank you, Red.
Jerry Vivino - November 21, 2003
Rock and Roll: The Best of Red Prysock
(Note: image shown is the Swingstation CD)
Well....it's not really Jerry's pick, but it's definitely our pick. It's Jerry's new CD and it features 16 great standards (12 tracks) played by killer musicians and recorded the way it should be - LIVE!
Featuring MW7 band member Mike Merritt and often MW7 drummer James Wormworth along with keyboard maestro Brian Charette and the great Lew Soloff guesting on Trumpet, Flugelhorn and muted Trumpet.
Live From Shanghai Jazz (2003)
Jerry Vivino Quartet
Jerry Vivino, Mike Merritt, Brian Charette, James Wormworth, Lew Soloff (DMP)Order this CD online!