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The Alto Saxophone
the lady of the saxophone family; not until Charlie Parkers advent was it apparent that a lady could behave like a vixen.
Don Redman, one of the earliest jazz alto soloists, played with Fletcher Hendersons band and McKinney's Cotton Pickers, and on some of the best records by the Armstrong combos of 1928. Jimmy Dorsey was considered one of the "hottest" alto men by many of his contemporaries; his standard solo on Tiger Rag, repeated in Red Nichols' recording under the title That's No Bargain, was as widely imitated in the late '20s as were the most celebrated Charlie Parker solos two decades later. Though Dorsey sometimes sounded as if he were reading a prepared solo (the Tiger Rag instance indicated that this actually hap­pened at times) he was certainly one of the more fluent per­formers at a time when the alto sax was a stepchild in jazz.
The essential qualities of improvisational greatness—a pro­fundity of ideas, individual tone, the ability to phrase subtly and swing constantly, complete technical control in the mouth and under the fingers—were combined in the alto saxophone of Johnny Hodges, who was 21 when he joined Duke Ellington's band early in 1928. Hodges in his early years with the Duke was a stomping soloist, using an occasional trill or grace note but basing his solos primarily on eighth notes and making constant use of syncopation. Not until the middle 1930s did his mastery of the glissando, the slurring use of quarter-tones, become ap­parent as he began to assume a more important role in ballad performances. By the early 1940s, on records with Ellington and with small contingents from the band under his own name, Hodges had established a scooping, smearing style that had substituted saccharine for pepper and tended often to lose most of the qualities that give any solo its jazz identity, Passion Flower was an example of this fulsome approach; but on the other hand, a half hour after he had completed it, Hodges recorded Things Ain't "What They Used To Be, a slow, rocking blues. He has remained a genius of the blues and an incomparable jazz soloist at any tempo, as the most recent records by his own groups attest; but in the Ellington band, which he rejoined in 1955 after a four-year absence, his role too often is confined to routine