May 1997

Albert Nicholas and Art Hodges
The New Orleans- Chicago Connection
Delmark Records

This was made ten years before the Sackville set I recently reviewed here. It similarly reveals what an accomplished clarinetist Nicholas was, but overall it is less successful. Art Hodes' rumbling accompaniment sounds clumsy in comparison with that of Henri Chaix. Hodes, in fact, seems somewhat uncomfortable at times with the varied program's material, and rhythmically tone of his interventions seem to throw Nicholas momentarily. Their most successful joint venture is, not surprisingly, the slow "Anah's Blues." There are no less than nine alternative takes, plus a previously unissued "Careless Love."

In retrospect, it may seem odd that Ellington didn't hire Nicholas when Barry Bigard quit, because their clarinet styles were so similar, and Nicholas had the woody sound the leader esteemed. But there were already two altos in his band, and Nicholas' double was alto.

Originally published in May 1997
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