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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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WOODY HERMAN ORCHESTRA

Reunion at Newport

ITM Archives ITM 920003

 

 


CD1
1. Blue Flame
2. La Fiesta
3. At the Woodchoppers' Ball
4. Pavane
5. Reunion at Newport
6. Sugar Loaf Mountain
7. Laura
8. Fanfare for the Common Man
9. Giant Steps

CD2
1. I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
2. Take the "A" Train
3. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life
4. Caldonia
5. Blue Flame
6. Cousins

Woody Herman - Clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, vocals
Bill Byrne, Glenn Drewes, Dave Kennedy, Jim Powell - Trumpets, flugelhorns
Birch Johnson, Nelson Hinds - Trombones
Larry Shunk - Bass trombone
Bill Ross, Joe Lovano - Flutes, tenor saxes
Frank Tiberi - Flute, tenor sax, bassoon
Gary Smulyan - Baritone sax
Dave Lalama - Piano
Jay Andersen - Bass
John Riley - Drums

 

The title may be misleading, because this album was recorded in 1978 at the Stadthalle in Chemnitz, East Germany - not at the Newport Jazz Festival. The title derives from one of the tunes on the album which gives many of the band members the chance to solo. The band consisted mainly of up-and-coming young musicians. Yet the bandleader, Woody Herman, was then 65 and had been leading his own bands for more than 40 years.

You can't say that Woody didn't keep up with the times, as his repertoire here includes such "modern" works as Chick Corea's La Fiesta and John Coltrane's Giant Steps, as well as imaginative jazz arrangements of Gabriel Fauré's Pavane and Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. Of course, there were also old Herman favourites - starting with his long-time signature tune Blue Flame and including At the Woodchoppers' Ball and Caldonia. The sleeve-note says that this double album also contains Four Brothers and Early Autumn but they are nowhere to be seen or heard. Perhaps they fell off the second CD, which lasts for barely 34 minutes.

Every number is played with the fiery spirit and precision that became Herman's trademarks, although perhaps this band lacks some of the crazy humour that was once a feature of the band. Woody himself contributes some good-natured vocals as well as playing clarinet on such tunes as Woodchoppers' Ball. His rather quavery alto sax is touching in I Got It Bad, and his soprano sax makes a brief but impressive entrance towards the end of La Fiesta.

Alan Broadbent's arrangement of La Fiesta adapts it from a small-group tune to a big-band romp, with the flutes tweeting at the start and the tenor saxes of Frank Tiberi and Joe Lovano making an immediate impact, which they continue to bolster on many subsequent tracks: notably Giant Steps, which climaxes with the duelling saxes backed only by rousing drums.

Alan Broadbent also arranged several other tracks, such as his own Sugar Loaf Mountain and Michel Legrand's What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life - both of which feature tasteful trombone by Birch Johnson. Broadbent's arrangement of Fanfare for the Common Man was already well established in the Herman repertoire, turning Copland's short composition into a jazz-rock outing lasting nearly ten minutes. The soprano sax solo - presumably by Woody himself - is particularly notable, as is the tenor sax solo, leading into an all-out powerhouse finish. John Riley's drums round things off superbly: indeed, his drumming is one of the main sources of this band's potency throughout the album.

Gary Anderson turns Fauré's Pavane into a surprisingly effective big-band piece, with the spotlight on the woodwind, including Frank Tiberi on the unusual bassoon.

The second CD opens with two Ellingtonian numbers: I Got It Bad and Take the "A" Train. The former benefits from soulful piano by Dave Lalama; the latter showcases a tenor solo by Joe Lovano - at that time a promising 25-year-old. Caldonia retains the classic arrangement, complete with Woody's vocal, although it is somehow less wild than it used to be. At least its 13 minutes allow room for plenty of solos, climaxing with a well-built drum solo. After a repeat of Blue Flame, the band exits with the bluesy Cousins.

This recording is here released for the first time, and it proves that Woody Herman's bands continued to swing even after several decades.

Tony Augarde



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