Pendant mes vacances...
The works outing for Duke's this year is a week in Paris. The hotel – Pallais de Chaillot - was booked on the strength of it being named for the venue where Duke Ellington played a concert on 3 April, 1939.
There’s going to be, then, something of a Gallic theme to the next few postings, exploring the music of the Ellingtonians in France.
Ellington’s band played the Palais de Chaillot again when they returned for a tour of continental Europe in 1950. During the band’s stay in the City of Light, a small group of musicians made a few sides for the Vogue record label under the leadership of Johnny Hodges. Sixteen of the sides have been anthologized several times on the Vogue label. Somewhat more rare is the first session for the label by this small group.
They recorded four sides on that initial date which took place on April, 14, 1950. The first of the tunes, Saint-Germain des Prés Blues appeared under Harold ‘Shorty’ Baker’s name. The remaining three sides credit Hodges as leader.
The full discographical details for the session are as follows:
Harold Baker (tp) Quentin Jackson (tb) Johnny Hodges (as) Don Byas (ts) Raymond Fol (p) Wendell Marshall (b) Butch Ballard (d)
Paris, April 14, 1950
OSW671 Saint-Germain des Prés Blues
0SW672 Good to the Last Drop 341, Onyx ORI216
0SW673 Only Wish I Knew 349, -
0SW674 We Fooled You - , -
What of the music recorded during this session? Well, as one might expect, it’s very different to that recorded under Hodges’ leadership in the late thirties and early forties.
Be bop is clearly making its presence felt in the sharp stabs from the brass lines behind the soloists. The presence of Don Byas – living in Paris at the time, I think – also lends a cool modernism to the proceedings. The sound of the group is reminiscent of the recordings James Moody was making about this time in Sweden. Indeed, the 1950s saw the beginnings of that emigration of musicians from New York to the European continent. Hodges himself, before long, of course, would attempt to fly free of the Ellingtonian nest and launch his own solo career. The sessions are, in some ways, a launching pad for his flight.
Three of the four numbers are up-tempo, the exception being the ballad Only Wish I Knew which in Baker’s tender horn lines, and despite its rather abrupt ending, is somewhat reminiscent of Miles Davis’s work in the Birth of the Cool sessions.
Anyway, presented here are those four sides from Hodges’ Paris sojourn. Medium rarities.