Johnny Hodges is forever associated with Duke Ellington as one of his principle soloists, though he recorded extensively as a bandleader himself beginning in the '50s. This compilation draws from earlier Storyville releases, including a number of features for the alto saxophonist with Ellington, highlighted by "All of Me" and "Jeep's Blues." But the bulk of this CD contains all ten tracks of Hodges' earlier disc, Masters of Jazz, Vol. 9, which features the saxophonist leading two separate groups of all-stars in club settings. Six tracks come from a 1960 set at The Cellar in San Francisco, with Ben Webster providing a perfect foil for Hodges, all originals by the leader. Four selections come from a Norman Granz-sponsored European tour in 1961, where Hodges led a group of fellow Ellington veterans (Harry Carney, Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Aaron Bell and Sam Woodyard, with pianist Al Williams). Hodges' swinging take of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" is brilliant, with the other horn providing lush background and soft rifts for the soloist. In addition to Hodges, Brown also solos in both "Good Queen Bess" and a rousing "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." Highly recommended!
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden