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Tito Puente and Woody Herman: Herman’s Heat & Puente’s Beat!

These two CDs collect the music clarinetist Woody Herman made for the Everest label in 1958. The accompanying discographical information is, like the collected music, a hodgepodge.

Still, it can be discerned that on several of The Everest Years’ tracks, the band is not Herman’s per se but a re-creation of Herman’s Herd with bassist Chubby Jackson as leader. And a very good band it is, with splendid solos from Al Cohn, Bob Brookmeyer and Ernie Royal. The same version of “Woodchopper’s Ball,” with Herman reproducing his patented solo note-for-note, appears on both this CD and Herman’s Heat Puente’s Beat. But The Everest Years also offers successful revisits to “Caldonia,” “Blowin’ Up a Storm” and “Bijou,” which features a crusty trombone solo by Brookmeyer that craftily avoids allusions to the classic solo on the original version by Brookmeyer’s hero, Bill Harris. To close The Everest Years, Herman takes another run at Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, but it doesn’t have the snap and edge-of-the-seat tension of the 1946 Columbia recording by the First Herd.

Seven tracks on Herman’s Heat & Puente’s Beat feature the edition of the Herd that absorbed the Al Belletto Quintet, with solid anchoring courtesy of Belletto’s baritone sax, and blazing trumpet work by Willie Thomas. The tracks with Tito Puente heading up a Latin percussion division constitute a curiosity, while those featuring Charlie Byrd’s acoustic guitar playing come closer to a synthesis of guest artist and the Herman band.

Originally Published