Several times in his career star alto-saxophone soloist Johnny Hodges struck out on his own, only to return each time to Duke Ellington’s band. There seemed to be a constant tension between them, though it was old hat by the time of this recording. In the enclosed notes, critic Michael Ullman examines this complex relationship, suggesting that the blues classics chosen for this program may have been neutral ground. A place where Ellington’s unique piano playing could come to the fore and Hodges’ irrepressible sensuality could have free rein. Back To Back one of the very best small-group records Ellington ever made: a relaxed, perfectly integrated set of music that truly swings the blues.



  1. Wabash Blues
  2. Basin Street Blues
  3. Beale Street Blues
  4. Weary Blues
  5. St. Louis Blues
  6. Loveless Blues
  7. Royal Garden Blues