Owen Broder • Hodges: Front And Center Vol. Two

Owen Broder • Front And Center Vol. TwoPaying tribute to a jazz instrumentalist can be a tricky proposition, particularly if one plays the same instrument. A balance has to be found between emulating the artist and adding something new to the music. Earlier, altoist Owen Broder on Front And Center had paid homage to the great Johnny Hodges. Recently he released Vol. Two.

Johnny Hodges (1907-70) was always greatly admired for his beautiful tone. While renowned for his ballad performances with Duke Ellington, he also was quite individual on blues and swinging jump tunes, making every luscious note count

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Hodges spent the 1951-55 period leading his own small bands in between two long stints with Ellington’s orchestra. Some of the music on Front And Center Vol. Two is from that period and three standards (“Wabash Blues,” “St. Louis Blues” and “Stompy Jones”) are drawn from a classic album (Back To Back) from 1959 on which Hodges was joined in a sextet by trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and Ellington himself on piano.

Broder hints at Hodges in places on this set, particularly on the closing ballad “The Star Crossed Lovers,” but also lets some of his own musical personality seep into the music. In addition, he occasionally plays baritone with a bit of Harry Carney’s sound. Trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, who at times reminds one of Warren Vache and Bobby Hackett, is an excellent choice to share the frontline. Pianist Carmen Staaf sounds very close to sounding like Duke Ellington on some numbers, particularly “Stompy Jones,” capturing his complex and highly individual chord voicings and accents. Bassist Barry Stephenson and drummer Bryan Carter are excellent in support.

In addition to the songs mentioned, the quintet performs the lesser-known “Used To Be Duke,” “Back Beat,” “Big Smack,” and “Shady Side,” the latter based on “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” While the magic of Johnny Hodges cannot really be duplicated, Owen Broder comes close often enough during this likable set to make Front And Center Vol. Two recommended to fans of small group swing.

UpBeat Records

Owen Broder • Hodges: Front And Center Vol. Two
Outside In Music 2402

Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for AllMusic.com. He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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