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Zwee Dot: “Yearning” by Oliver Nelson

By Kelly Sill

In this month’s “Zwee Dot,” Kelly Sill shares his listening notes to Oliver Nelson’s composition/arrangement “Yearning” from Johnny Hodges’ last album, 3 Shades of Blue. It was recorded in March 1970 and released later that year, after Johnny’s untimely death.


from the Johnny Hodges recording

3 Shades of Blue

1970, Flying Dutchman

Oliver Nelson – Composer/arranger

Johnny HodgesAlto saxophone

Oliver Nelson – Composer, arranger, conductor

Randy Brecker, Ernie Royal, Marvin Stamm, Snooky Youngtrumpet

Al Grey, Quentin Jackson, Garnett Brown, Thomas Mitchell – trombone

Bob Ashton, Danny Bank, Jerry Dodgion,

Joe Farrell, Jerome Richardson, Frank WessReeds

Hank JonesPiano

David SpinozzaGuitar

Ron CarterBass

Grady TateDrums

0:02 And the cut starts

0:07 It already feels good

0:10 Ron Carter and Grady Tate play great together

0:12 This is a blues

0:23 It settles down for a moment

0:31 Man, Johnny is a strong lead player

0:37 Great arranging

0:47 And now they’re doing a double-time thing

0:57 Must be through the whole chorus

1:21 Johnny Hodges really playing the blues

1:27 And now he says it

1:34 Hank is really playing some weird sh^t

1:41 Sing it, Johnny!

1:51 New chorus

1:57 And Ron is playing in two, with a figure

2:02 The backgrounds are stupendous

2:09 Yeah Johnny!

2:19 They’re opening up

2:28 Holy f^ck—Johnny Hodges!

2:30 That note!

2:32 And Ron; he’s opening up the earth

2:34 Hank Jones: answering beautifully

2:37 That note again

2:40 Johnny is roaring, and Ron is using his low C extension better than any other bass player that I’ve ever heard

2:50 It’s both tender and severely grooving

2:56 Man!

3:01 Now the trumpet solo, using triplets as quarter notes in a faster feel

3:10 Ron keeps the original feel

3:17 Although Grady is following the trumpet feel

3:36 And now Ron is accenting the second triplet

3:42 Oh baby! Ron is a powerhouse!

3:49 He’s relentless; and Johnny is filling the holes beautifully

3:59 What a beautiful shout chorus, even though it’s somewhat subtle

4:05 Nice; it sounded like it was going to change keys, but it didn’t

4:14 Same shout chorus, and now Grady is playing a ton of stuff

4:26 Beautiful, beautiful Johnny!

4:34 Man, I believe every note that he plays

4:36 They just set it down

4:54 And now they’re going back into the double-time chorus

5:04 Pretty much the same as the beginning

5:14 And they suddenly ended, with Johnny getting the last say

5:17 Another beautiful cut!


Kelly Sill has been a mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene for more than 45 years. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he moved to Chicago. 

He has since performed and recorded with a vast array of jazz artists, including Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Eddie Jefferson, Clark Terry, Cedar Walton, Herb Ellis, Woody Shaw, Hank Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Chris Potter, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Janice Borla, Jack Mouse, Jackie McLean, Joey DeFrancesco, Donald Byrd, Bobby Watson, Eddie Harris, Scott Hamilton, Victor Lewis, Clifford Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many more. 

He has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia Festival, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall in Greece, and Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall) in Chicago.

Kelly has served on the faculties of Northwestern University, Interlochen Arts Academy, Northeastern Illinois University, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, and Northern Illinois University. He currently teaches at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. For questions or comments please contact him at or visit his website at

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