In his eulogy of saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1907-70), Duke Ellington ended with the words, Never the world's most highly animated showman or greatest stage personality, but a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eyesthis was Johnny Hodges. This is Johnny Hodges. Hodges' unforgettable tone resonated throughout the jazz world over the greater part of the twentieth century. Benny Goodman described Hodges as by far the greatest man on alto sax that I ever heard, and Charlie Parker compared him to Lily Pons, the operatic soprano. As a teenager, Hodges developed his playing style by imitating Sidney Bechet, the New Orleans soprano sax player, then honed it in late-night cutting sessions in New York and a succession of bands lead by Chick Webb, Willie The Lion Smith, and Luckey Roberts. In 1928 he joined Duke Ellington, beginning an association that would continue, with one interruption, until Hodges' death. Hodges' celebrated technique and silky tone marked him then, and still today, as one of the most important and influential saxophone players in the history of jazz. As the first ever biography on Johnny Hodges, Rabbit's Blues details his place as one of the premier artists of the alto sax in jazz history, and his role as co-composer with Ellington.
Johnny Hodges' unmistakable sound on alto saxophone was at the heart of the Ellington orchestra for decades. Except for brief periods, Hodges's extraordinary career spanned the long life of the Ellington Orchestra, from when Hodges joined the band in 1928, at the start of its Cotton Club years, until Duke's death in 1974. Hodges, a reserved person, was nonetheless a perennial crowd-pleaser and poll-winner, and an idol to countless aspiring jazz saxophonists. Con Chapman helps uncover the details of Hodges' personal life, and his ascendance as a prominent jazz soloist with the 'Beyond Category' Ellington Orchestra, and on his own. * Stephanie Crease, ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award-winning author of Gil Evans: Out of the Cool * Duke Ellington surrounded himself with sidemen whose strong musical personalities were essential to his success. Yet for all their individuality, they lived out their lives in his long shadow-and still do. Now the greatest of them, Johnny Hodges, is the subject of a full-scale biography of his own, one that tells his story clearly, readably, and in richly rewarding detail. Thanks to Con Chapman, it is possible at last to see Hodges for what he was, a musical giant in his own right whose towering stature was inescapably obscured by the greatness of his boss. * Terry Teachout, author of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington * It was Johnny Hodges to whom Duke Ellington entrusted his most beautiful melodies. Until now, Hodges has been an enigma to the world - he was famously taciturn and was said to put everything he felt into his saxophone. Con Chapman has managed a miracle in bringing to vibrant life one of jazz's greatest musicians, admired by Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Chapman places Johnny Hodges in the midst of American music in the same fashion that Ellington placed him in his musical world. * Loren Schoenberg, Grammy Award-winning jazz historian * The sound of Johnny Hodges was and is one of the landmarks of jazz, not to mention the feeling it conveyed, but he was a man of few words. Here, for the first time, we have a full-fledged portrait of the artist himself. * Dan Morgenstern, Grammy Award-winning jazz critic * Con Chapman's first-rate Rabbit's Blues catapults the incomparable alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges into the pantheon of jazz immortals. Chapman celebrates Hodges's rise from Cambridge, solo work with Duke Ellington, conciseness of melody, and gorgeous instrumental tone with musicologist precision. This is a marvelous biography for the ages. Highly recommended! * Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair of Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University and Grammy Award-winning jazz record producer * Like many brilliant musicians who contributed to the music of jazz immortals, Johnny Hodges' artistry have been woefully ignored. Yet Hodges was an immortal himself, and through scrupulous research and a keen appreciation of Hodges' gifts, Con Chapman has brought us as close to this taciturn genius as we are likely to get. * Bob Blumenthal, Grammy Award-winning jazz critic *