May 2, 2013

Where’s the Hodges – Carney Monument in Boston?

Where’s the Hodges – Carney Monument in Boston?


The singer, the arranger and the Duke’s Men: Saxophonists Johnny Hodges (left) and Harry Carney, with Sy Oliver and Frank Sinatra (1946).

The singer, the arranger and the Duke’s Men: Saxophonists Johnny Hodges (left) and Harry Carney, with Sy Oliver and Frank Sinatra (1946).

If Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney had grown up together a few blocks apart in, say, Paris, there would be statues in their honor, and streets named after them. In New York, they’d be remembered with a monument — as in Ottawa there’s now a fine public sculpture of native son Oscar Peterson at his piano. In Boston, the obligation rests with Northeastern University — spreading out on that hallowed ground of Lower Roxbury — to give the city a Hodges-Carney museum of the incredibly fruitful core and hatchery of black Boston. Hodges (1906 – 1970), raised on Hammond St, off Tremont, first gave the alto saxophone its full range: earthy and lyrical, pristine and sexy, like a whisper in your heart. The star soloist in the Ellington orchestra, he had “a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eyes,” as Duke Ellington put it when Hodges died; “our band will never sound the same.” Harry Carney (1910 – 1974), from Cunard Street across the way, invented the full voice of the baritone sax and anchored the Ellington reed section through 40 years of immortal music. The South End of their boyhoods – what the retired minister Michael Haynes calls the “strategic strip” between Massachusetts Avenue and Ruggles Street – was the Boston where drummer Roy Haynes and dancer Jimmy Slyde grew up, where Sammy Davis Jr. lived for many years. Of course, it wasn’t all show biz. This was where aspiring black Boston was formed in playgrounds, churches, schools and parades — the Boston that Alan Crite painted in spirit and detail. If we don’t mark the memories on this spot, we could to lose it for all time.

Parade on Hammond Street, 1935.  By the "Harlem Renaissance" painter Alan Crite (1910 - 2007.

Parade on Hammond Street, 1935. By the “Harlem Renaissance” painter Alan Crite (1910 – 2007).

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  • Joel Cohen

    Chris, do not forget Ruby Braff and Serge Chaloff. On the classical side one might remember Leonard Bernstein, n’est-ce pas?

    Are they gonna put up a statue to Paul Gonsalves in Pawtucket?

  • chris

    Dear Joel: How’s to forget Ruby Braff, who talked as colorfully as he played the trumpet? He gave us a beautiful interview on the centennial of his god, Louis (not Louee) Armstrong, here:

    Yes, I heard Serge Chaloff unforgettably with the George Wein All-Stars in one of the late great Boston Arts Festivals circa 1957. He learned a lot from Harry Carney about the bari sax, no? On the radio today, I remembered what Gunther Schuller once said to me when I asked whether Leonard Bernstein or Johnny Hodges might last longer. Of course, he said, there were many differences — among them: that Bernstein wrote both masterpieces and lesser stuff; while every note Hodges played was perfect!

    And yes, for sure, Paul Gonsalves should be memorialized in Brockton, where he was born, and New Bedford, where he grew up. Love to you, dear Joel.

  • Peter LaCasse

    Give the drummers some! Roy Haynes and Tony Williams both advanced the instrument and the music!

  • Potter

    Every now and then, maybe while listening WICN (90.5) our “Jazz for New England” Station here in central MA, while driving I find myself saying, “hey that sounds like Johnny Hodges”. And it is! His “voice” is recognizable and remarkable especially since it stand out even in the back there (before it comes forth). Can’t talk about music which is for listening, but it’s wonderful, Hodges is wonderful and your adulation warranted. No statue necessary, just keep playing the music and passing the word. (And so too about Harry “Sweets” Edison from the Midwest). (ref: “Back to Back” and “Side by Side” with Duke Ellington on Verve in STEREOPHONIC SOUND). Thanks for the prod.

  • Potter

    I just listened to both of your podcasts on BPR on Hodges (not easy to get to and not linked here) but I have to say how much I enjoyed listening, the selections, your appreciation and enthusiasm. I still think not so much a statue but yes for a an exhibition, a show somewhere with your help curating perhaps. Headphones and audio selections as part. Certainly this is worthy of that. A museum might follow…..

    Where is the list of your selections played (and unplayed?) that was promised?

  • Potter

    Okay a statue for Carney ( who I have now noticed! wonderful baritone) and a statue for Hodges.

  • Avecfrites

    Here’s Johnny’s Sax for sale on eBay.

  • Ron G

    OK, they replayed this show last Friday 8/30. Got me all excited. Has anything happened on this? Because it’s public art we’re talking about, more is better. I agree Hodges and Carney deserve first consideration. Looking down the road, what about the others mentioned? Then start thinking about The Tune Weavers, Donna Summer and Freddie Cannon. And they don’t have to be dumb statues. Modern works that evoke the music(s) would be a higher tribute.

  • Peter E

    I still listen to the Ruby Braff And Wynton Marsalis “Louis” interviews from tapes I purchased way back when. I can’t begin to tell you how much pleasure I still get from listening to those two men discuss Louis in reverential terms – and Louis’s music is thrilling. Thanx Chris