THE BAND THAT PLAYS THE BLUES
Recorded New York and Los Angeles 1937 - 1941
NAXOS - NAXOS LEGENDS
Woody Herman and his Orchestra
track 9 Woody Herman and his Woodchoppers
|1. Woodchoppers' Ball
2. Blue Flame
3. Dupree Blues
4. Twin Town Blues
5. Laughing Boy Blues
6. Casbah Blues
7. Blues Upstairs
8. Blues Downstairs
9. Red River Blues
|10. Dallas Blues
11. Caliope Blues
12. Peach Tree Street
13. Blue Prelude
15. Bessie's Blues
16. Bishops Blues
17. Blues in the Night
18. Blues on Parade
When I first started to take saxophone lessons one of the books recommended
for study was 'The Woody Herman Alto Sax Digest' . It came as a pleasant
surprise to find that many of the tunes contained in this book are featured
on this release.
'The Band That Plays The Blues' Herman's version of the band he took over
on the retirement of Isham Jones. The music is mainly the blues or blues
based standard tunes. This is the band that was the predecessor to Herman's
The music is very much of the period - swing based -with a predilection for
dance tempos. The standard of playing - both ensemble and solo - is very
high and easily comparable with any of the more famous bands from this era.
Unfortunately there is no listing of personnel - but one can assume that
all of the clarinet and alto solos and the majority of vocals are by the
leader.Herman's clarinet style is facile (but not as facile as Shaw or Goodman)
and has a strong blues/New Orleans influence. His vocals in terms of delivery,
bring to mind a higher, more light hearted Jack Teagarden.
''Woodchoppers Ball'' has become a big band standard - this version whilst
tight is quite relaxed in tempo and does not contain the clarinet ride out
featured on later recordings. 'Blue Flame'' which was the band's theme tune
before ''Woodchopper's is a more sultry performance altogether. Once again
both ensemble and solo playing are of the highest order. This tune recalls
the style of early Ellington pieces such as ''Mood Indigo'' and ''The Mooche''.
''Woodchoppers" is much more of a Basie style riff tune, even using a four
piece rhythm section in a four in the bar manner to generate the momentum.
''Twin City Blues" is an example of a more complex ensemble style which serves
as a forerunner for more modern arranging techniques used in the later Herman
There are some selections which might fall into the ''novelty'' category
''Caliope Blues'' with what sounds like a penny whistle and ''Laughing Boy
Blues'' with its laughing refrain - reminiscent in many ways of Jelly Roll
Morton's ''Hyena Stomp''
Overall this is a fine and enjoyable set of performances from a band on the
cusp of the Swing Era and more modern things to come.
D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in