ELLINGTONIA WITHOUT ELLINGTON! Billy Strayhorn & Johnny Hodges: Juice A Plenty

One of the most symbiotic relationships in jazz was the collaboration between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. You really cannot honestly discern where one composer/arranger begins and the other takes over on any composition from the 1940s on. Here, we’ve got Strays leading an orchestra in a studio recording and a medium sized band on a 1961 and ’58 pair of albums, respectively. The studio sessions have the vintage reed section of Hodges with Paul Gonsalves, Hary Carney, Jimmy Hamilton and Russell Procope, and Hodges is featured as only he deserves. He gloriously shines on “Don’t Get Around” and “Jeep’s Blues” making you wonder why anyone would NOT want to sound like him. The Chicago concert has a stunning take of “Passion Flower” as well as the rarely heard “Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool.” Cat Anderson has some moments on the trumpet where he punches a few holes in the ozone layers as well. These guys lived, breathed and drank Ellington, and we should be grateful that people are as dedicated to art as these men were. Inspiring!


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