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Johnny Hodges

Biography

John Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges (July 25, 1906 - May 11, 1970) was an American alto saxophonist, best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington's big band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years, except the period between 1932 – 1946 when Otto Hardwick generally played first chair. Hodges was also featured on soprano saxophone, but refused to play soprano after 1946, when he also got the task of playing the lead chair.

Hodges started playing with Lloyd Scott, Sidney Bechet, Lucky Roberts and Chick Webb. When Ellington wanted to expand his band in 1928, Ellington's clarinet player Barney Bigard recommended Hodges, who was featured on both alto and soprano sax. His playing became one of the identifying voices of the Ellington orchestra. Hodges left the Duke to lead his own band (1951 – 1955), but returned to the large ensemble shortly before Ellington's triumphant return to prominence – the orchestra's performance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

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