Johnny Hodges – The Big Sound

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  • Hodges’ superb and quite rare release arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • Spacious and transparent, this mono copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes an All Tube recording from 1957 such a joy to listen to
  • Featuring some of the swingingest cats from Duke Ellington’s band, all playing the music they love and performing at the peak of their powers
  • 4 stars: “No surprises, but the session was as good as one might hope. Gathered here was the Ellington band with Billy Strayhorn at the piano…This was an integrated unit, not some detached studio band for Hodges to blow over, under, around, and through. It was wonderful Hodges and fine Ellington.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 4 moderatly loud pops near the beginning of track 2, Johnny Come Lately.

This vintage Verve T-label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of The Big Sound have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1957
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on The Big Sound

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Johnny Hodges – alto saxophone
Cat Anderson, Shorty Baker, Willie Cook, Clark Terry – trumpet
Ray Nance – trumpet, violin
Quentin Jackson, John Sanders, Britt Woodman – trombone
Jimmy Hamilton – clarinet, tenor saxophone
Russell Procope – alto saxophone, clarinet
Paul Gonsalves – tenor saxophone
Harry Carney – baritone saxophone
Billy Strayhorn – piano
Jimmy Woode – bass
Sam Woodyard – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You
An Ordinary Thing
Waiting For Duke
Dust Bowl
Little Rabbit Blues

Side Two

Viscount
Johnny Come Lately
Bouquet Of Roses
Gone And Crazy
Digits
Segdoh
Early Morning Rock

AMG 4 Star Review

No surprises, but the session was as good as one might hope. Gathered here was the Ellington band with Billy Strayhorn at the piano. While it was not an Ellington record, the band brought its solid qualities in backing and the occasional solo to all the fine Hodges features. This was an integrated unit, not some detached studio band for Hodges to blow over, under, around, and through. It was wonderful Hodges and fine Ellington.

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