A caveat to begin with. This is a video of a “bootleg” recording. And I know that no one’s estate is getting paid for this. I apologize to everyone who might be offended by such illicitness. But the music is beyond your wildest dreams of lyrical swing. And since both of the horn soloists were sometimes surrounded by musicians who didn’t understand their essential selves as well, this session is priceless. (Even Norman Granz, who loved and encouraged both Ben and Hodges, sometimes paired them with musicians who didn’t give them perfect rhythmic support . . . in my opinion.)
Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster officially played together for the first time in the 1935 Ellington band, and their mutual love and admiration went on for nearly four decades after that. In 1960, they recorded a dozen tracks at a remarkable session — two horns, four rhythm — that wasn’t issued until much later. It benefits greatly from a swinging rhythm section of Lou Levy, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Wilfred Middlebrooks, string bass; Gus Johnson, drums. (I believe that this was the quartet supporting Ella Fitzgerald in concert at the time.) The remaining four tracks feature a different band: Hodges, Ben, Ray Nance, cornet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Emil Richards, vibes; Russ Freeman, piano; Joe Mondragon, string bass; Mel Lewis, drums; Jimmy Hamilton, arrangements: Los Angeles, January 31, 1961.
The material was first issued on a now out-of-print Mosaic box set, and surfaced on this European CD . . . and this YouTube video. The songs are BEN’S WEB / SIDE DOOR (DON’T KID YOURSELF) / BLUES’LL BLOW YOUR FUSE / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / DUAL HIGHWAY / BIG EARS / SHORTY GULL / IFIDA / BIG SMACK / I’D BE THERE / JUST ANOTHER DAY / LOLLAGAGIN NOW / EXACTLY LIKE YOU / I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT / VAL’S LAMENT / TIPSY JOE / WAITING ON THE CHAMPAGNE.
Posted by Thelasttavern — we send thanks for the rarely heard music. And I’d like everyone who thinks they know what swing is to pay close attention to the two rhythm sections, especially to the floating work of the under-celebrated Gus Johnson.
(A linguistic aside: the title IFIDA was mysterious to me for a long time until I realized that it was pronounced as several words, as in “If I’d – a” done this or that . . . )
May your happiness increase!