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Tom Reney’s writings delve into the history and mystery of jazz, blues, and beyond. The Jazz à la Mode Blog has plenty to stimulate your interest and curiosity in American music.

Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges: Jeep's Blues

Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges
Jan Persson
Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges

"Tell 'em what happened! Tell ‘em what happened!” Duke Ellington exhorts Johnny "Jeep" Hodges in this 1957 performance of “Jeep’s Blues,” at a dance concert in Carrolton, Pennsylvania.

A classic of small group Ellingtonia, the tune was introduced in 1939 on a session under Hodges' nominal leadership. Played at Carrolton one-nighter eleven months after its most famous rendering at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, this version is Newport's equal and has the added profundity of Duke’s introduction. “If you’ve heard of the saxophone, ladies and gentlemen, then you’ve heard of Johnny Hodges.”

Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges

Released for the first time in 1983, the All-Star Road Band album drew high praise from Ellington aficionados worldwide, and motivated John S. Wilson in The New York Times to write that it captured the band “vividly alive,” and conveyed Ellington’s “personal and musical charisma for those who missed him.” As for Hodges, this is declamatory preaching of the highest calling, with Ellington’s accompaniment prompting and cushioning his star soloist, and the ensemble, especially in quiet passages, intoning like a choir. Who needs a narrative with lyricism of this order?


Tom was honored by the Jazz Journalists Association with the Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Career Excellence in Broadcasting in 2019. In addition to hosting Jazz à la Mode since 1984, Tom writes the jazz blog and produces the Jazz Beat podcast at NEPM. He began working in jazz radio in 1977 at WCUW, a community-licensed radio station in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tom holds a BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he majored in English and African American Studies.