Dig this stampede of vintage Herman
Blowin’ Up a Storm: The Columbia Years 1945-1947
During his long and storied career as a bandleader, Woody Herman led enough Herds to stock the largest cattle ranch in Texas. But none were as explosive, energetic and entertaining as the First and Second Herds.
The former was assembled by Herman in 1945, and the latter in 1947, with a year in between that found Herman in retirement.
Both Herds are on display in Columbia’s two-disc compilation that includes 26 tracks by the first edition, four recorded by the Second Herd before it jumped to Capitol, plus 10 alternate takes, mostly by the ’45 orchestra.
To refresh your memory, musicians in the first incarnation of the trailblazing Herds included jazz greats answering to the names of trombonist Bill Harris; trumpeters Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli and Conte Candoli; tenorman Flip Phillips; vibist Marge Hyams; and drummer Dave Tough and bassist Chubby Jackson, who drove the band with incredible power.
Though not as popular as the First Herd, the drug-ridden “Four Brothers” bop-blowing Second Herd could call on the talents of tenormen Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, trumpeters Al Porcino and Conrad Gozzo, and chartist Neal Hefti, as well as First Herd holdovers like Jackson and composer/arranger Ralph Burns, architect of some of Herman’s more structured charts.
And admirers of those early Herds will revel in the proceedings, because Columbia touches nearly all the bases. From the First Herd, there’s Harris’ distinctive trombone embracing “Everywhere” and “Bijou”; the complete and complex “Ebony Concerto,” composed for the band by classicist Igor Stravinsky; flag-wavers like “Apple Honey,” “Northwest Passage” and “Wildroot,” all head arrangements; Herman’s classic vocal on the Louis Jordan jump-jive “Caldonia”; vocalist Frances Wayne’s classic “Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe”; and both parts of Burns’ “Lady Magowan’s Dream.”
Although Herman’s First Herd seven-piece combo the Woodchoppers, which featured vibist Red Norvo, recorded 10 tracks for Columbia, only four are included in this collection. And that’s unfortunate because the sampling here on items like, “Someday, Sweetheart,” “Fan It” and “Igor” leave you longing for more.
The Second Herd’s contributions, though small in number, are significant for two reasons: the presence of the band’s now legendary “Four Brothers” and “Summer Sequence,” which was developed into “Early Autumn,” a showpiece for tenorman Getz. And thrown in for good measure, the goofy “Goosey Gander” with drummer Don Lamond dropping the final bomb, and the stem-winding “The Goof and I.”
With its vast store of Herman recordings that includes vocals by Mary Ann McCall, it’s hoped Columbia will eventually get around to issuing a comprehensive Herman anthology.
Meanwhile, here’s a delicacy to whet your appetite.
Cam Miller is a free-lance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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