Johnny Hodges

Biography

In one sense or another, Johnny Hodges was always on his own — even on the Ellington bandstand, where he began and became best known. He joined Ellington early in life, at twenty in 1928, and he died a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, suffering a heart attack in a dentist’s chair shortly after recording part of his lifelong boss’s New Orleans Suite in 1970. As a result, his sound, or his two principal sounds — the lusty warmth of his ballad readings and the offhand lilt of his uptempo improvisations — are inevitably associated with Ellington. Yet Hodges’s voice came entirely from within; as Ellington put it, he "is a consummate original." Indeed, Hodges is now widely acknowledged as one of the most individualistic interpretive voices in all jazz.

As a solo artist away from Ellington, Hodges had three mini-careers during his tenure with Norman Granz and the labels he launched: independent bandleader, after he resigned from the Ellington organization, 1951–55; soloist, mostly leading ensembles of Ellington orchestra members after he reunited with Duke, from 1956–61; and would-be jazz-pop star, working with the hit-oriented producer Creed Taylor, 1961–70.

David Hadju

Excerpted from Johnny Hodges Jazz Masters 35

As a solo artist away from Ellington, Hodges had three mini-careers during his tenure with Norman Granz and the labels he launched: independent bandleader, after he resigned from the Ellington organization, 1951–55; soloist, mostly leading ensembles of Ellington orchestra members after he reunited with Duke, from 1956–61; and would-be jazz-pop star, working with the hit-oriented producer Creed Taylor, 1961–70.

David Hadju

Excerpted from Johnny Hodges Jazz Masters 35