Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges

Oxford Univ. Sept. 2019. 232p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780190653903. $27.95. MUSIC
Music writer Chapman (the American Bystander; the Boston Herald) offers the first full-length biography of saxophone legend Johnny “Rabbit” Hodges, who seduced audiences with his vibrato and bluesy sliding from note to note. In brief chapters, mostly arranged chronologically, the author describes Hodges’s childhood and first professional forays into jazz. Chapman understandably spends most of the book on Hodges’s more than 50 years performing in jazz legend Duke Ellington’s big band. The saxophonist’s tenure started in 1928, lasted until his death in 1970, and was interrupted only by a four-year solo career in the 1950s. A few chapters scattered throughout delve into Hodges’s personal life, including his wives, children, and favorite foods. Though unearthing little new material, the author provides a workmanlike, detailed, but concise biography of a much-neglected jazz luminary and his times.
VERDICT For jazz enthusiasts and those curious about Hodges.

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