Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Woody Herman: The Complete Capitol Recordings of Woody Herman

While Woody Herman’s celebrated First Herd of 1944 to 1946 was unquestionably the darling of both critics and jazz fans alike, it would have been naive to think that he could have maintained that band in the face of mounting economic pressures and changes in public taste. As a matter of fact, he was forced to disband in December 1946 and did not regroup until 10 months later, this time with the Second Herd or, as it was called just as frequently, the Four Brothers band. Taking its name from the Jimmy Giuffre chart that featured the Lestorian sax section sound of three tenors and a baritone, this band departed from the all-out swing of the First Herd by incorporating even more elements of bop and Stravinsky-inspired harmonies. On this Capitol set, which consists of 108 tracks, inclusive of 15 unissued performances, we hear the various Herman bands from December 1948 through May 1956, during which time there were many changes in personnel, if not overall style.

Highlighting disc one, which opens with bop-inspired Shorty Rogers charts on “That’s Right” and “Lemon Drop,” is the solo work of Terry Gibbs, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Lou Levy, Earl Swope and Red Rodney, while Bill Harms, an earlier Herdsman, appears for the first of many appearances on “I Ain’t Gonna Wait Too Long.” Stan Getz scores his first major hit on Ralph Burns’ “Early Autumn,” his brief solo defining for all time the lyrical beauty of which this gifted young man was capable. He also swings along with Serge, Zoot and Harris, on Rogers’ “Keeper of the Flame,” a romping take on “I’ve Found a New Baby” changes. “More Moon” features Getz’s replacement, Gene Ammons, who also shines on Johnny Mandel’s “Not Really the Blues” and “The Great Lie.” The vocals on several of the other titles are by the never fully appreciated Mary Ann McCall and Woody, who also blows solid clarinet and alto throughout, especially so on Burns’ “Rhapsody in Wood.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published