quinta-feira, 1 de outubro de 2009

Lawrence Welk & Johnny Hodges

  1. Someone To Watch Over Me
  2. Misty
  3. Fantastic, That's You
  4. Star Dust
  5. I Can't Get Started
  6. Haunting Melody
  7. When My Baby Smiles At Me
  8. Blue Velvet
  9. Sophisticated Lady
  10. Canadian Sunset
  11. In A Sentimental Mood
  12. I'm Beginning To See The Light
Welk & Hodges
Musical categories, created by critics for the convenience of themselves and their readers, resemble nothing so much as countries with ill-defined frontiers, across which the inhabitants pass unhindered whenever they will. This album is a case in point, because the soloist featured throughout with Lawrence welk's orchestra, Johnny Hodges, has long been famous for his association with Duke Ellington. Yet thus to be from another country, from another area of musical activity, is still to be part of one world, the world of music, a fact which musicians are usually quicker to recognize than their various audiences.

"I've been wanting to do this for four or five years", Lawrence Welk told his guest when they met for the first time in the record studio, "but I just didn't have nerve enough to ask you. Then one day, as I was riding along in the car, I heard you play something that was so beautiful, and I said, 'Gosh, I'm just going to go ahead and ask him!'"

Hodges had flown out to Hollywood especially to make the record, but there could have been nothing better calculated to put him at ease than this unfeigned expression of esteem. "I'm very happy to be here", he replied, a smile breaking acroos his normally immobile features. The subsequent performances certainly showed how quickly a rapport had been established between these two men.

All the numbers chosen were well suited to the saxophonist's artistry, but the composition of the orchestra which faced him was decidedly different from that which he was accustomed. Even more unusual was the fact that a different arranger had been employed for each number. The best in Hollywood, most of these men came to the studio to conduct the performance of their work (a compliment in itself), and afterwards they sat around and listened appreciatively to what colleagues had written, with the result that the control room frequently looked like an arranger's clubhouse.

The instrumentation of violins, cellos, violas, French horns, trombones and rhythm furnished Hodges with luxurious backgrounds, enhanced his lyricism, and contrasted effectively with his compulsively rhythmic moods, but the arrangers and conductors saw to it that his gift for improvisation and variation was never restricted. In fact, he was always encouraged to interpret the material in his own inimitable fashion.

His familiarity with such staples from the Ellington repertoire as "Sophisticated Lady" (arranged by Marty Paich), "I'm Beginning To See The Light" (aaranged by Vic Schoen) and "In A Sentimental Mood" (arranged by Jerry Gray) was immediately manifest, but what was surprising was how he felt his way into songs that were entirely new to him. Once, when he was playing "Fantastic, That's You" (arranged by Lyn Murray), someone commented on this to Lawrence Welk.

"All jazz musicians are that way", he answered. "When they can blow their hearts into it, it is much better than when they read the notes".

Johnny Hodges, of course, did both on the sessions which resulted in this album, but he was very alive to the value of the support given him by the accompanying musicians. "The way those cats melt in...," he murmured, as he listened to the playback of "Someone to Watch Over Me", which had been arranged by Benny Carter and conducted, since Carter was in New York, by George Cates.

Russ Garcia's arrangement brought out the wistful character of Erroll Garner's "Misty" to the full, and this, like several others, seemed to be a song made to order for the saxophonist. Pete King was responsible for the exquisite score of "Star Dust", the performance of which evoked studio applause. "Believe it or not", the soloist insisted, "I never played 'Star Dust' before in my life!"

Then there were "Blue Velvet" (arranged by Sid Feller), "I Can't Get Started" (arranged by Dick Hazard), "Canadian Sunset" (arranged by George Cates) and "Haunting Melody" (an adaptation from Brahms' Fifth Symphony arranged by John Keating). Hodges was always equal to the demands each made of him, and no one was more appreciative of his remarkable melodic and rhythmic resourcefulness than Lawrence Welk, whose choice of an old Ted Lewis hit, "When My Baby Smiles At Me", turned out to be particularly inspired. George Wyle's arrangement for this was appropriately but eloquent simple, and it provided the soloist with a kind of propulsion that invariably animates his imagination. The tempo appealed to him too, and the magic of his phrasing gave a whole new dimension to a tune that was a red-hot favorite in 1920.

Individual preferences for melodies may well determine personal favorites here, but this new kind of summit meeting produced definitive interpretations of a dozen of the best. Two heads, it is said, are better than one, and an alliance such as this was bound to result in something special. The envoi is best left to the host:

"Johnny Hodges is a great artist, Lawrence Welk said at the end of the session. "Besides everything else, he plays the prettiest saxophone of anyone I know".

(Original liner notes by Stanley Dance)

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