"... successful enough to spawn a successor album Side by Side. Both albums have long been collectables with jazz lovers as well as audiophiles, as they contribute top-notch music with fabulous sound. ... the new mastering by the late George Marino of Sterling Sound brings out more detail and texture to the instrumental sound than the original. Sterling Sound´s reissues of the 1960s material from the MGM period have been dramatically better than the reissues. The improvement here is real but not as dramatic. Still, this is a first-class reissue." — Recording = 9.5/10; Music = 9/10 — Dennis D. Davis, Hi-Fi +, Issue 96
"...these are all truly classic Verve titles that you simply don´t want to miss...most importantly, the sound of these reissues is nothing short of astounding. Particularly the early Billie and Ella mono records are incredible treasures of sonic beauty. I´d definitely ask Santa for the whole set, or, if you want to cherry pick, the most classic titles. Whatever you decide, you owe yourself at least a half dozen!" Winner of a 2012 Positive Feedback Online Writers´ Choice Award - Danny Kaey, Positive Feedback Online, November/December 2011
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. This is one of the very best small-group records Ellington ever made — a relaxed, perfectly integrated set of music that truly swings the blues.
Originally released in 1959.