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Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues – Back To Back (1959/2012) [DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz]

Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues – Back To Back (1959/2012)
DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz  | Time – 00:47:15 minutes | 1.86 GB | Genre: Jazz
Source: ISO SACD | © Verve Records
Recorded: Columbia Studios, New York, NY, February 20, 1959
Mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound

Back to back, or side by side, Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges form a duo which, in terms of sustained jazz artistry, has never been rivaled. The Ellington fanciers will be well rewarded, for there are many passages of Duke’s unusual and charming solo improvisations. “Johnny Hodges,” Duke said, “has complete independence of expression. He says what he wants to say on the horn, and that is it. He says it in his language, from his perspective, which is specific, and you could say that his is pure artistry.” Hodges carries most of the melodic statements of well-known blues standards, but gets in his share of ad lib choruses along with the swinging trumpet of Harry “Sweets” Edison. This is one of the most thoroughly relaxed, conversational jazz sessions ever recorded.

These distinctive small-group sessions, featuring Duke Ellington as pianist in a blues context, are part of a group of recordings issued under the confusing titles Back to Back and Side by Side, and further reissued under the not particularly distinctive name of Blues Summit. But there should be no confusion about the high quality of music that came out of these sessions — it is all “cooking with gas” as the expression goes. From the jazz world, it would be difficult to find more profound soloists on traditional blues numbers than the Duke or his longtime collaborator Johnny Hodges, who does some of the most soulful playing of his career here. Also hitting a very high standard for himself is trumpeter Harry Edison and, while musicians are being patted on the back, the Jones boys in the rhythm section should be given a hand. That’s Jo Jones (drums) and Sam Jones (bass), so as not to create additional confusion in the Jones-heavy jazz world. The songs all have titles that end in “Blues,” with the oddball having “Love” in the title not once but twice. (It’s “Loveless Love,” what else?) But these songs are just vehicles for playing the blues, a formula that has produced great music many times, and certainly did every time this particular pianist was leading the group. –Eugene Chadbourne

1. Wabash Blues 06:24
2. Basin Street Blues 08:01
3. Beale Street Blues 07:35
4. Weary Blues 06:54
5. St. Louis Blues 05:47
6. Loveless Love 07:09
7. Royal Garden Blues 05:25

Duke Ellington – piano
Johnny Hodges – alto saxophone
Harry “Sweets” Edison – trumpet
Les Spann – guitar
Al Hall – bass (tracks 1 and 4)
Sam Jones – bass (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Jo Jones – drums


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