Woody Herman's Finest Hour
VERVE -549 707 -
Blues on Parade
Blues in the Night
I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues
Blowin' Up a Storm
The Good Earth
Leo the Lion
Don't Get Around much Anymore
If you are to be successful with a Big Band there
are some ingredients which are essential. A bunch of musicians who want to
play the music of the band, arrangers who can bring the best out of those
musicians, a rapport between the musician's and their leader which gives
the band an identity and most of all sufficient gigs to keep the wolf from
the door. Woody's bands had all these things and it was his ability as an
entertainer that kept his band in the eye of the public until shortly before
his death in 1987. Throughout his forty odd years as a leader, his bands
constantly moved forward, each 'Herd' as they were called, being slightly
better in some way than it's predecessor. The Herds also nurtured the jazz
stars of the future, Flip Phillips, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Bill Perkins
and Sal Nestico all occupied the one of the Tenor Sax chairs at some time.
It was no different with the other instruments; to spend some time in his
band was the best training anyone could get. Unlike many other leaders, Woody
had a warm temperament and got his bands to play well for him because they
liked him. His own playing is also worthy of mention, his Clarinet playing
was very much a trade mark, but his Alto sax playing was very reminiscent
of the great Ellingtonian Johnny Hodges.
This record tracks the band from 1941 to 1962 and quite a few Herman classics
are included, Woodchopper's Ball was always in the library, but the arrangement
constantly changed and the tempo increased greatly from the standard 'Quickstep'
heard here. Whilst all the tracks have some good ensemble work and excellent
soloists, the listener will notice that the bands get better end better.
They continued to do so after this period. Blowin' Up a Storm, Bijou, The
Good Earth, Early Autumn and Caldonia stayed in the library for many years
and I personally like Buck Dance very much, it is a relatively simple, but
very effective arrangement.
Overall this record is a good sample of the Herman Herds of the period and
I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in the great 'Big Band'