Wild Bill Davis & Johnny Hodges In Atlantic City-Speakers Corner LP 180 gram vinyl – Released April 2015 ( original release RCA Victor 1966 LSP-3706) 42:31 ****
( Johnny Hodges – alto sax; Wild Bill Davis – organ; Lawrence Brown – trombone; Bob Brown – tenor sax & flute; Dickie Thompson – guitar; Bobby Durham – drums)
From 1961 to 1966, Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis were a creative musical team with superb chemistry. They released eight albums namely; Blue Hodge/Mess Of Blues/Blue Rabbit/Joe’s Blues/Con Soul and Sax/Blue Pyramid/Wings and Things, and this live session, all of which were replete with examples of the blues roots of these two splendid musicians.
However, after their initial release, most of these titles disappeared without a trace, although some of the original LPs are occasionally available from collectors and many have now been reissued on CDs from European labels. The re-issuance of this album on 180 gram vinyl with exceptional remastering, fulfills the wishes of many of the first title holders who had been hoping that perhaps a more fulsome box set compilation of all the other albums might be forthcoming.
The album’s original liner notes by jazz writer and historian Stanley Dance have been reproduced in their entirety and provide great background on the live recording venue ( Grace’s Little Belmont, Atlantic City, NJ) as well as a fulsome discussion of the compositions produced on the release.
As with many live jazz recordings, these tracks are predominately swingers as lounge patrons were not into love ballads. Side 1 starts with “It’s Only Paper Moon” with Hodges jauntily framing the theme. Hodges alto style is readily identifiable regardless of the situation. Davis’ organ style was also unique as he used block chords to derive a big organ sound and rarely ventured into long single note runs which the subsequent era of B-3 organists favoured.
Hodges wrote “Good Queen Bess” in 1940 as a joyous tribute to his mother. It has a simple opening line that Hodges and Lawerence Brown play in unison before Davis comes in with his own captivating take on the number.
Side 1 closes with a with a Duke Ellington jazz standard “In Mellow Tone”. The number is based on the chord changes of a 1919 popular tune “Rose Room”. With this simple riff, Hodges and Lawrence Brown demonstrate their prowess and proclivity for invention, before Davis brings the big bass driven organ into the mix and pushes the number to its powerful conclusion.
On Side 2 another Johnny Hodges original “Rockville” makes its first appearance on this album. The number is an old fashioned bar band swinger where all the members get a chance to take a piece of the action. First up is guitarist Dickie Thompson with a series of tremolo refrains. Hodges and Lawrence Brown dig in with some fluent exchanges, and then tenor saxophonist Bob Brown improvises with creativity. But it is left to organist Davis to roar with swaggering authority and a rock solid groove to close out the number.
The final two tracks on the album are both rousing numbers, starting with the Duke Ellington staple “It Don’t Mean A Thing ( If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and then a Hodges composition “Belle Of The Belmont”. The first tune gives all the members of the band a chance to shine, as each soloist takes to heart the meaning of the title. Hodges role is two fold on his own tune, as it speaks volumes to his ongoing innovation as a composer, and ensures that he continues to be recognized as one of the leading alto sax exponents of his generation.
This is the epitome of casual swinging in a cheerful setting.
It’s Only A Paper Moon
Good Queen Bess
L B Blues
In A Mellow Tone
I’ll Always Love You
It Don’t Mean A Thing( If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
Belle Of The Belmont
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