BEN WEBSTER – JOHNNY HODGES SEXTET 1960 PLUS

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!

7 responses to “BEN WEBSTER – JOHNNY HODGES SEXTET 1960 PLUS

  1. Stompy Jones

    One of the best damn sessions I’ve ever heard – a sure cure for the weltschmerz blues. We had the privilege of seeing/hearing the great Gus Johnson up-close many times here in Toronto, usually in support of Buddy Tate, Plas Johnson, Spanky Davis, Jim Galloway, Jay McShann, and the late Ian Bargh (a very fine local pianist who didn’t like to travel). Thank you – it doesn’t get any better than this.

  2. Yeah Michael this is a great recording with plenty of inspiring Herb Ellis solos. Thanks.

  3. Robin Aitken

    Michael,
    Thank you again for an interesting blog. I have never heard these particular sides, however, I have had in my collection for many years a Johnny Hodges Storyville LP in their Masters Of Jazz series which was issued in 1984. This has 6 sides by the same band recorded at the Jazz Cellar on the 22nd and 23rd June 1960 . They are completely different and are all Hodges originals – Cambridge Blue, Brute’s Roots, Bouncing With Ben, One For The Duke, Walkin’ The Frog and Rabbit Pie. This has long been a favourite Webster/ Hodges record of mine because the rhythm section lifts both horns to even greater heights.
    Thank you for introducing this to me – I have ordered a copy!
    With kind regards
    Robin Aitken

  4. Dear Robin,

    I, too, have or had that Storyville recording — but I have a nagging whisper in the back of my head that the six tunes are in fact reproduced on this CD: Storyville “gave names” to performances and the new CD has the right names? I don’t doubt your hearing, and I don’t have both sources here to compare, but I wonder if what I suspect is true. Magnificent music any way! Cheers, Michael

  5. Robin Aitken

    Michael,
    You are quite right. I have listed to some of the LP again and the some of the tracks are the same. I think IFIDA is Brute’s Roots on the Storyville LP. Have not checked all of them yet. Great music no matter what! Will let you know when I have the CD.
    Regards
    Robin

  6. Michael:

    I have this music on CD. When it arrived in my mail, I recognized that I already had the music in an earlier iteration. I happen to be in Jersey at the moment, without access to my collection of 9000 LPs & CDs, scattered throughout a long apartment, so I can’t be more specific about when & where it was originally issued.

    Speaking of big-toned tenor men, yesterday I photographed Houston Person 4 at Inst of Jazz Studies on the Newark campus of Rutgers (Harry Allen’s alma mater, where his piano prof was Kenny Barron). Jazz photog Ed Berger showed us around the facility, & I gazed upon Ben Webster’s beloved tenor “Old Betsy”, Don Byas’s tenor & Benny Carter’s alto, among other holy relics.

    John

  7. Tom Buhmann

    FRom Heinz Baumeisters Ben Webster sessiongraphy you can learn that Shorty Gull is Storyville’s Cambridge Blues, Ifida is Brute’s Roots, Big Smack is Rabbit Pie, I’d Be There is One For The Dukem Just Another day is Walkin’ The Frog and Lollagagin Now is Bouncin’ With Ben.

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