Born in Kentucky and raised in Springfield, OH, Todd Rhodes first attracted attention during the 1920s as pianist with McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Beginning in 1934, Rhodes spent years gigging around Detroit before assembling his own little band in 1943. By 1946 this group had established itself at Lee's Sensation Lounge in Chicago, and in July 1947 the band began making records bearing the Sensation label, with its primitively rendered graphic depicting tongues of flame surrounding the lettering. Some of Rhodes' recordings would also appear on Vitacoustic, yet another small-time phonographic enterprise based in Chicago. None of the players in this band became famous, and even most seasoned jazz heads would probably not recognize their names. George Favors asserted himself with a big meaty baritone sax, Louis Barnett held down tenor, and Holley "Hal" Dismukes played dazzling alto, with Howard Thompson blowing trumpet. Rhodes had Joe Williams on the bass and Huestell Tally at the drums. Their first four recordings were exceptionally well-played, employing both elements of bop and boogie. "Dance of the Redskins," with its driving rhythms, bears a striking resemblance to the "Redskin Rhumba," itself a variant on Ray Noble's "Cherokee." The records cut in October and November of 1947 for the most part sound just as solid, with occasional lapses in coordination, timbre, and tuning among the horns and in some instances as an apparent result of an improperly tuned piano. While Sun Ra's early Arkestras found ingenious ways of utilizing these kinds of sonic irregularities, the sour harmonics heard here and there on these Rhodes sessions come across as minor momentary discombobulations. Once the Sensation masters were sold to King Records, Rhodes began to enjoy more than modest success. "Blues for the Red Boy" climbed to number four on the Billboard R&B chart in 1948, and was even used as a broadcast theme song by Alan Freed a few years later, after Freed rechristened it "Blues for Moondog." The rocking "Walkie Talkie," also recorded by young Dinah Washington in 1946, is sung here by Louis Saunders, the singing waiter from Lee's Sensation Lounge. Rhodes' next recording date occurred in Cincinnati on January 25, 1949. The band seems to have tightened up its act for keeps; "Moonlight Blues" in particular sounds like something out of Jay McShann's bag. "Pot Likker," with its rousing group vocal chorus, was a smash hit, making it to number three on that auspicious Billboard chart.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf