The Pre-Thundering Herd...
Woodrow Charles Herman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 16, 1913. An excellent clarinet and saxophonist and vocalist, Herman was to be best known for leading a series of influential big bands. Like Hector Berlioz, Woody Herman would be better know for this ability to make a band play than for his ability to play a given instrument. The present Naxos Jazz Legends release details the period prior to the First Herd, apt the named "The Band that Plays the Blues." Herman had been employed in the Isham Jones Band since 1934, taking the band over in 1936 when Jones retired. It was this group that formed the nucleus for this big band.
In keeping with the title, the majority of pieces are 12-bar blues. They all boast the swing sound of the period, blowing both "sweet" and "hot". Herman was not afraid to take chances, proving this during the '37 — '41 period by incorporating so many blues into his book. These pieces represent a cross section of recordings made for Decca between April 26, 1937 and September 10, 1941. The sound on this recording is very good, having been capably restored by David Lennick's direction.
Herman was quite the showman as demonstrated by his vocal prowess and his trademark clarinet playing. One outstanding nugget here is Harold Arlen, joining Herman on the Harlan composition "Blues In the Night." What fun that must have been. This disc, along with most of the other Naxos Jazz legends, provide good starting points for the novice in search of more musical information, without the novice going without food to purchase the discs.