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Johnny Hodges

Johnny Hodges


Johnny Hodges put the alto sax on the map in jazz. He could get hot and bluesy like nobody's business and his ballads could reduce grown men to tears. The straight-faced Hodges (think Buster Keaton) never cracked a smile, but his ballads ached as if he funneled all his emotion into them. He was by far the most popular of Duke Ellington's sidemen, and he led his own band for a time and released a number of albums under his own name in the '50s and '60s. His sound was much different than Lester Young's, but the impact of his playing can be heard in both West Coast and Cool Jazz. If you have any doubts, check out the album he did with Gerry Mulligan. Duke Ellington probably wouldn't have been the Duke without him.

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