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Johnny Hodges and Will Bill

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Exceptional jazz musicians win us over with a warm tone, lyrical lines, a feel for the blues, respect for space, sheer speed or stamina—to name just a handful of winning traits. But not all exceptional jazz musicians work well together and only a bunch of couplings have produced dazzling results. Perfect partnerships that come to mind include Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
and Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
and Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
saxophone
, Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
and Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, Blue Mitchell
Blue Mitchell
Blue Mitchell
b.1930
trumpet
and Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
, Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, Don Patterson
Don Patterson
Don Patterson
1936 - 1988
organ, Hammond B3
, Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
guitar
and Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
1924 - 1977
sax, alto
, to name a handful. Add alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
and organist Wild Bill Davis
Wild Bill Davis
Wild Bill Davis
1918 - 1995
organ, Hammond B3
to the list.

Hodges had an insistent, sweet sound that gave the Duke Ellington Orchestra its polite sensuality. Davis, by contrast, had a pushy, swinging sound with meaty big-band expressions. What they shared in common was an intimate feel for the blues—though Hodges's attack was a more mannered, 1930s articulation while Davis's blues was R&B flavored.

Despite these stylistic differences, Hodges and Davis knew they sounded great together. You can hear the mutual respect in their playing, as each artist feeds off the other. They made eight small-group albums together in the 1960s, mostly for Verve. This list includes Blue Hodge (1961), Sandy's Gone (1963), Mess of Blues (1963), Joe's Blues (1965), Wings and Things (1965), Blue Pyramid (1965), Con Soul and Sax (1965) and In Atlantic City (1966).

All of these albums are on the money. On paper, the pairing never should have worked. One might have concluded that Hodges's alto would be too mannered for Davis's rambunctious organ, or that Davis wouldn't take to Hodges' satin-slipper approach. But like many great pairings, Hodges and Davis clearly appreciated the other's sound and found inspiration in what they heard, working to maximize the combination. The result is a pairing that worked, album after album.

JazzWax tracks: Unfortunately, Universal hasn't yet released the Verve albums digitally or as a set, so we're stuck with a series of incomplete Lonehill issues (here) that are no longer in print. Memo to Mosaic: time for The Complete Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis Small-Group Sessions?

JazzWax tracks: Here's the title track from Joe's Blues...



Here's Stolen Sweets from Mess of Blues...



And here's Drop Me Off in Harlem from Con Soul and Sax...


View the original article...

This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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