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

Woody Herman: Blue Flame: Portrait of a Jazz Legend

Although he outlasted most of his big band-era contemporaries, working steadily for more than 50 years and never resorting to nostalgia, Woody Herman is rarely considered iconic today. Perhaps that’s because-as some of the clarinetist, saxophonist and singer’s former employees readily attest in this nearly two-hour documentary-he was never a true virtuoso. As saxophonist Dick Hafer tells it, when Stan Getz, a member of one of Herman’s outfits in the late ’40s, informed his boss, “You play the worst,” Herman didn’t dispute him. Instead, he shot back, “That’s why I’m paying you to play, schmuck.”

What Woody Herman was very, very good at was putting together exemplary bands and keeping them busy. The bandleader’s nickname, “Road Father,” doubles as the title of the first chapter of this chronologically sequenced program, which ultimately makes a convincing case for a reconsideration of its subject. A parade of performance footage from throughout the years and testimonials from now-gray former colleagues and critics supports that notion.

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

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.