If you love Ellington then you will love Ellingtonia ’56; even if Ellington is not your thing there is no denying the great music to be heard on this album of Ellington alumni headed by Johnny Hodges. Side 1 of the original album feature a cut down band, while the second side is the full-blowing Ellington orchestra, minus the Duke – just check out Duke’s Jam with the fill blowing sax sec ion of Paul Gonsalves, Russell Procope, Harry Carney and of course Hodges himself.
The album is everything you would expect from Johnny Hodges whose eloquent alto saxophone oozes elegance and sophistication. Naturally it swings like mad and if you have any doubts as to how hard then just listen to ‘The Happy One’. Texas Blues on side one is a one take 12 minute jam, it’s Billy Strayhorn at the piano, and like everything else on the album sounds just as fresh and vibrant today as when it was first recorded. On the original Verve LP it says on the cover, ‘Under the personal supervision of Norman Granz’. You just know he would have loved being in the studio when they recorded this, it’s as close a having Ellington on the JATP as he ever got. It was recorded over two days in January 1956 – wouldn’t you have loved to have been there?