Several times in his career star alto-saxophone soloist Johnny Hodges struck out on his own, only to return each time to Duke Ellington's band. There seemed to be a constant tension between them, though it was old hat by the time of this recording. In the enclosed notes, critic Michael Ullman examines this complex relationship, suggesting that the blues classics chosen for this program may have been neutral ground. A place where Ellington's unique piano playing could come to the fore and Hodges' irrepressible sensuality could have free rein. This is one of the very best small-group records Ellington ever made - a relaxed, perfectly integrated set of music that truly swings the blues.
"Back To Back" - Duke Ellington (p); Johnny Hodges (as); Harry "Sweets" Edison (tp); Les Spann (g); Al Hall, Sam Jones (b); Jo Jones (dr)