(Johnny Hodges)

For the suburban Long Island homeowner in the 1950’s, one of the key status symbols was a finished basement. My father finished ours entirely himself. There were knotty pine wood walls carefully varnished with sleek wood trim. In addition, he built his own speaker cabinets and record turn table all with the same knotty pine features. One afternoon he said he wanted to share something ‘downstairs’ .There, he had me stand about five feet from the two evenly spaced floor speakers and other state of the art equipment. He picked out a 33 rpm record from the shelve ,took it out of its sleeve and carefully placed it on the turntable. He placed his right forefinger under the tone arm and gently lowered it onto the turning LP. When I heard the sound of a few instruments, I knew two things: 1. It was jazz, and 2. It wasn’t hi-fi quality like the recording Swan Lake recording  my uncle Marty picked up from ‘the city’.

Moments into the recording, I was struck by the mellow tone, and  the smooth effortless sounding pitches rapidly sliding up and down the instrument. It had me transfixed! “That’s Johnny Hodges”, my father said, and I thought, “ I’d like to do that too”. More specifically, I’d like to play the instrument I’m hearing, the saxophone. Hodges was playing the soprano saxophone, but kids  we’re supposed to start on the alto sax which was OK by me.

 I owe it to that recording of  Blue Reverie performed by members of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, who were guests of Benny Goodman at his famous 1938 concert. A few years later I learned to, play other instruments, and took up composition. I point to that day in our finished basement as my awakening; my realization that music was the direction in which I’d take the rest of my life. This was the beginning of my musical journey, a journey  which continues to this day.

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