Phil Woods: Unheard Herd (2006)
In his long and illustrious career, the late Woody Herman led many big bands, including several known as his Thundering Herds. The Unheard Herd recaptures the music of Herman's Second Herd, aka The Four Brothers Band. Some of the music on this set, a selection of his charts from the late forties, was never recorded by the Herman band. The owner and producer of Jazzed Media, Graham Carter, championed the idea for this project and called upon alto great Phil Woods to help him bring the music of the "seldom herd" back from obscurity. Woods has been a fan of the bandleader's music since he was sixteen, and Carter is a fan of both artists, so it was only natural to have the celebrated saxophonist lead this recording.
Woods re-joins the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, with which he recorded Groovin' to Marty Paich. This album documents a live performance from May 2004 with a former Herdsman, trumpeter Ron Stout, directing an orchestra that includes some of LA's greatest jazz musicians, like Carl Saunders, Ross Tompkins, Andy Martin, Kim Richmond, Joel Hamilton and Scott Whitfield. Since it's a live recording, you will hear various comments from Stout and Woods on several tracks as the music is introduced. Track seven, "Humor In Jazz," is devoted to a few funny stories from Woods; the rest of the disc is pure fire.
The opening salvo on "Keen And Peachy" explodes with smoking solos from Woods, Jerry Pinter (tenor), Bob Carr (baritone) and Stout (trumpet). This piece is followed by the loud and groovy beat of "The Great Lie." Woods takes center stage on the Shorty Rogers tune "Man, Don't Be Ridiculous" with an expressive, fiery solo performance showcasing his distinctive sound. Gerry Mulligan's arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" was never recorded by Herman but is finally revealed here, and what a revelation it is. "My Old Flame" turns out to be a duet with Woods on a flaming solo backed up by pianist Ross Tompkins.
There's a heavy Shorty Rogers influence in these charts, including the bebopping "We The People Bop," in which Kim Richmond makes his mark on clarinet. "More Moon" has that classic Rogers big band feel, which became known as the West Coast jazz style. "Boomsie," the last piece and another Rogers arrangement, is a lighter up-tempo blues where the band cooks. Woods provides two stellar solos on a tune with eleven solo performances in a classic Herman swing setting.
Woody Herman would indeed be proud of the way Phil Woods and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra thundered through those charts, with a performance characteristic of the swinging Herds of the past. Sensational solos by Woods and the other giants in the band provide the spark that brings these forgotten treasures to life once again. It can now be said that the Unheard Herd has been heard and remembered.
Track Listing: Keen And Peachy; The Great Lie; Man, Don't be Ridiculous, Yardbird Suite; My Old Flame; We The People Bop; Comments By Phil Woods; More Moon; Comments By Ron Stout; Boomsie (59:10).
Personnel: Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Carl Saunders, Mike McGuffey; Frank Szabo, Bob Summers, Ron Stout: trumpet; Andy Martin, Scott Whitfield, Bryant Byers: trombone; Kim Richmond: alto saxophone, clarinet; Bill Trujillo, Keith Bishop, Jerry Pinter: tenor saxophone; Bob Carr: baritone saxophone; Ross Tompkins: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass; Dave Tull: drums.