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Woody Herman: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Woody Herman and His Orchestra & Woodchoppers (1945-47)

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Three years ago in JazzTimes, I expressed the hope that Columbia would one day reissue The Thundering Herds, the LP era’s most comprehensive collection of the label’s 1940s Woody Herman recordings. Columbia chose, instead, to license its 1940s Herman masters to Mosaic. With its customary thoroughness, Mosaic goes well beyond The Thundering Herds. To give you an idea of what Mosaic means by complete, the seven-CD set includes nine previously unissued takes by the Woodchoppers, the incomparable nine-piece group within the First Herd. “Steps,” “Igor,” “Fan It,” “Lost Weekend,” “Pam,” “I Surrender Dear” and “Someday Sweetheart” each appear in at least one newly discovered take in addition to the original issues, along with the originals of “Four Men on a Horse” and “Nero’s Conception.”

The total of alternate takes is 35, and there are 10 pieces that Herman recorded but Columbia never released, including several splendid vocals. There are three previously unissued takes of “Panacea” alone. Except for a couple of missing masters, the Mosaic box has everything of the band that Columbia’s gifted engineers recorded during the height of its power, creativity and popularity.

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