Mercer Ellington’s best known composition is surely the blues “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” which was premiered on a 1941 small group session under alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, with Duke Ellington also taking part. It quickly drew the attention of other big band leaders of the era; Glenn Miller, Charlie Barnet, Les Brown and Harry James all added the song to their repertoire within a short time. This robust piece naturally became a great solo feature for Hodges, though it wasn’t so closely identified with him as to be dropped from the band book following the death of the alto saxophonist in 1970. It was a frequent part of Ellington’s concerts, with his last documented performance taking place on March 5, 1974 at the Dade County Auditorium in Miami, just over two weeks before his fatal illness forced him to finally give up the road for good. “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” has long since entered the jazz canon, with memorable interpretations by artists such as Oscar Peterson, Stuff Smith, Jim Hall, Joe Pass and Dave Brubeck. But one of the finest examples comes from the 1963 recording The Great Paris Concert, naturally featuring Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington.