In January, the Danish record label Steeple Chase issued a CD with the concert by The Duke Ellington All Stars, directed by Johnny Hodges in Copenhagen 17 March 1961.

Norman Granz had taken the opportunity to put together with Johnny Hodges a septet for a European tour when the Ellington orchestra had a leave when Ellington was in Paris to work on the music for Paris Blues.

Besides Hodges, Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Aron Bell and Sam Woodyard was in the band together with the non-Ellingtonian pianist Al Williams,

The tour started in Stockholm with a concert at Konserthuset (Municipal Concert Hall) on 14 March.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Swedish jazz magazine Orkesterjournalen, Harry Nicolausson, reviewed  of the concert in the April 1961 issue of Orkesterjournalen.

He was very positive about the concert and headlined it Givande kväll med Duke’s giganter (A rewarding evening with Duke’s giants).

In his review. Nicolausson particularly singles out Hodges, Brown, Nance and Carney, whose “elegantly superior confidence and poise” were so dominant that the overall impression was not significantly disturbed by the fact that the accompaniment was not of the same class.

He considers that Johnny Hodges was “the soloist giant” and and that Lawrence Brown surprised “by playing with a fresher tone and much more powerfully” than he did in Sweden a few years ago. Harry Carney did not have one of his best days as soloist but in the ensemble he was, as usual, an outstanding asset.

Nicolausson missed Clark Terry as trumpeter but liked Nance’s ability to sing and dance in addition to playing trumpet.

After Stockholm the band went to the capital of Finland and from there to Copenhagen. With this, one has to look at discographical  issues.

In the liner notes of the Steeplechase CD, it is said that album came about because an unknown tape recording of the Copenhagen concert was found and I am sure  that this is how the CD came about.

But for many years, an LP issued on the Italian label Ariston (AJR/15013) titled Johnny Hodges and The Ellingtons has circulated among collectors and I am happy to have it in my collection.

It sits alongside another LP with music from Hodges’s tour in 1961. The label is Rarities and its issue number 38. It is titled Johnny Hodges-Harry Carney Sextet and it says to have music from the sextet’s performance in Berlin 22 March, 1961.

However, back to the Ariston issue. On the back it says that it was “recorded in concert, March 14th, 1961”. It has 13 track. It starts and end with Things Ain’t What They Used To be and in between there is C Jam Blues, Jeep Is Jumping, Good Queen Bess, I’ll Get by, I Let A song Go Out of  My Heart, I Let A Song Go Out of my Heart, Just Squeeze Me,  Take the “a” Train, On the Sunny Side of The Street, Stompy Jones, Do Nothing Till You Here from me, and I Got It Bad.

The obvious question is now: Is the content on the LP from the Stockholm concert or from the Copenhagen one?

Storyville issued part of the Ariston recording in an Johnny Hodges – Masters of Jazz and said it it was recorded in Stockholm on 14 March 1961 but this is not proof enough. Sven-Erik Baun Christensen, who also have the Ariston LP, considers that it is a recording of the Stockholm concert but it is more of a hunch. He has no proofs.

So it would be good to have get more information about the tape used by Steeplechase or do a track by track comparison. It seems not to be a concert recording by Danish Radio. Did the Falkoner Center have recording facilities for recording concerts or did a private collector bring his own tape recorder to tape concerts.

I suppose that someone knows about this and could help us.

Johnny Hodges’ Copenhagen concert 1961 has recently been broadcasted by France Musique and can be listened to there.

Author: Ulf Lundin

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