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Hey everyone! More from Johnny Hodges this week. A slight twist to help your studies - Today's solo is all about backings. It's Basin Street Blues from the Hodges / Ellington classic "Back to Back."

As a single-line instrument, sax players often don't get experience of 'comping.' Johnny Hodges shows how it's done on Basin Street Blues, improvising a counter-melody to Harry 'Sweets' Edison's killer solo. Download your free copy of the sheet music today!

Rhythmic Placement

The biggest challenge when backing another single line instrument is keeping out of the way! The skills of mutual listening and call and response are on display here. Johnny sticks to a similar repeated rhythmic pattern, centering around resolution on beat one. This gives 'Sweets' plenty of space to improvise his creative melodic line.

The slow tempo demands the use of 8th note triplets to keep rhythmic momentum in the counter-line. Listen to the push-pull relationship between the trumpet and sax melody creating dynamic interest in the overall rhythmic effect. Many players might just play half note guide tones when backing, but Hodges' effective use of rhythm maintains this consistency with a subtle rhythmic effect.

Harmonic Approach

Guide Tones

Johnny Hodges makes clear use of a fixed guide tone progression to highlight the cycle of 4ths harmonic progression. This helps create a sense of predictablity and reliability for the main soloist, with subtle variations that keep the 'comping' fresh.

Harmonic-Rhythmic Placement

Many saxophone players when accompanying a soloist will play an immaculate series of guide tones. Much like the rhythmic placement previously discussed, Johnny Hodges shows creativity and courage with delayed resolutions to the guide tones. You can see how the rhythmic and harmonic elements combine to create a subtle accompaniment that propels the soloist forward without getting in the way.

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