Johnny Hodges joined Duke Ellington orchestra in 1928, and the alto saxophonist became a mainstay of modern jazz for decades. Back to Back, their first collaborative LP, didn’t come into fruition until 1959. Despite the 30-year wait, the two veterans delivered a bluesy album that stands on its own terms.
Even more noteworthy is Side by Side, another 1959 collaboration in which Johnny Hodges takes over the spotlight. Ellington only appears on three tracks, and is mostly relegated to the background, as Hodges leads the band through several sterling tracks of bluesy bebop.
Both LPs are essential for any fan of the Duke Ellington orchestra.