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Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center: Vol. Two

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Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center: Vol. Two
Owen Broder's Hodges : Front and Center Vol.Two is a respectful yet refreshing tribute to Johnny Hodges, a saxophonist with an iconic sound while injecting a contemporary vitality into the mix. Hodges' influence looms large throughout the album, guiding Broder's approach to the music. In this quintet's musical journey, Broder, on both alto and baritone saxophone, is accompanied by trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Barry Stephenson and drummer Bryan Carter. In both his playing and composing, Hodges showed his affinity with the blues and variations on the blues form, and the eight tracks on this release capture this direction.

The opening track is "Used To Be Duke" from a 1956 Hodges album of the same name. This jumped-up number rollicks from the opening notes, with Broder and Staaf having brisk tempo solos. When Mulherkar's turn rolls around, he offers a solo with fluency and continuity. "Wabash Blues" is a blues in name only. It has an exuberant swing which is infectious. The chart is set up so Broder's alto spirals outward from the theme and is dominant throughout the number. Both Mulherkar and Staaf are impressive and insightful in their interventions.

Throughout the release, Broder demonstrates a clear understanding of Hodges' musical language, channelling his spirit while adding his unique voice to the conversation; even when he utilizes the baritone sax on such numbers as "Back Beat" and "Shady Side," his boisterous, growly playing is front and center on the stride tempo of the former and the more sultry offering of the second number.

"St. Louis Blues" by W.C. Handy is interpreted as intended with a stellar piano opening by Staaf, after which Broder is in full alto voice as the tempo swerves from rhumba to a swinging feel. The band takes command of the piece, which helps to enhance its accessibility and enjoyment. Two Duke Ellington numbers bring the album to a close. The first, "Stumpy Jones," is an easy-going swinger with Broder's alto, both expressive and insightful. Mulherkar on muted trumpet shows tasteful restraint, and Staaf's piano is briskly assertive. "The Star-Crossed Lovers" comes from the "Such Sweet Thunder" Suite, which debuted at the 1957 Stratford Ontario Shakespearean Festival. This lovely ballad is dominated by Broder's alto playing, filled with profound patience and extravagant feeling. The album reaffirms the timelessness of Hodges' music in the ever-evolving landscape of jazz.

Track Listing

Used To Be Duke; Wabash Blues; Back Beat; Big Smack; St. Louis Blues; Shady Side; Stompy Jones; The Star-Crossed Lovers.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Owen Broder: baritone saxophone.

Album information

Title: Hodges: Front and Center: Vol. Two | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Outside in Music


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