Johnny Hodges surprised the jazz world by leaving Duke Ellington's band to go out on his own as a leader in 1951, and the early Castle Rock LP was one of his biggest successes, powered by the appeal of the very rhythmic blues title track (written by tenor saxophonist Al Sears, another Ellington veteran). Billy Strayhorn and trumpeter Emmett Berry are on hand on a few tracks. In spite of the presence of other Ellington alumni, including Lawrence Brown, trumpeter Nelson Williams, and drummer Sonny Greer, the pieces previously recorded by Hodges while he was still with Ellington just don't have the same impact with the smaller groups heard on these dates. Hodges was evidently trying to make somewhat of a break from his established sound with this recording, though the results are mixed. It's still worth acquiring, though there are a number of better recordings available under Hodges' name.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden