Black Butterfly- Duke Ellington 1969
Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges is featured during a concert in Berlin, Germany by Duke Ellington and his orchestra.
"Johnny" Hodges (1907 -1970) spent 38 years with Ellington, leaving to lead his own band from 1951 to 1955.
When Ellington wanted to expand his band in 1928, Ellington's clarinet player Barney Bigard recommended Hodges, who was featured on both alto and soprano sax. His unique sound became the identifying voice of the Ellington orchestra.
Hodges was mostly self-taught, although he did take lessons on soprano sax with Bechet. Benny Goodman said Hodges was "the greatest man on alto sax I ever heard."
Ellington's practice of writing tunes specifically for members of his orchestra is reflected in the Hodges specialties, "Confab with Rab", "Jeep's Blues", and "Hodge Podge". He had a pure tone and economy of melody that won him admiration from musicians of all eras and styles. His highly individualistic playing style, which featured the use of a wide vibrato and much sliding between slurred notes, was frequently imitated.
He earned the nicknames Rabbit (for his enjoyment of lettuce sandwiches) and Jeep (for his apparent speed as a runner)Hodges played on the front line of the Ellington saxophone grouping. .
Duke Ellington's eulogy of Hodges included: "Never the world's most highly animated showman or greatest stage personality, but a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eyes”.