Legacy is the first recording by the Woody Herman Orchestra since Woody's passing in October 1987. As the latest Herd reprises briefly Herman's well-known theme, "Blue Flame," and dives impulsively into Jimmy Giuffre's classic, "Four Brothers," what becomes immediately apparent is that the band hasn't surrendered much ground under music director Frank Tiberi, even with guys named Nugent, Brignola, Gunther and Tiberi sitting in for Sims, Chaloff, Getz and Steward in the sax section (and drummer Jim Rupp launching thunderbolts reminiscent of the great Don Lamond). On balance, I'd say this may be the finest "Woody Herman" disc I've ever heard. If you're thinking, "How can he say that," remember that not everything Woody recorded was golden, and that some of his best material hasn't been reissued (Road Band! and The Woody Herman Band on Capitol, for example). Among the Herman discs I've heard only one can measure up to this: Live in Antibes, 1965 (with that great trumpet section of Bill Chase, Don Rader, Dusko Goykovich, Bobby Shew and Gerald Lamp, Sal Nistico and Gary Klein in the sax section, Nat Pierce at the piano and Ronnie Zito "lighting Woody's fire" from the drum set). But good as it is, Antibes didn't include such renowned guest artists as Frank Foster, Alan Broadbent, Tom Harrell, Pete Candoli, Urbie Green, Buddy DeFranco and Terry Gibbs, all of whom make noteworthy appearances on Legacy. Ex-Basie stalwart Foster is in superior form on "Make Someone Happy" (and is given composer's credit, which would have surprised Frank Loesser), as is flugelhornist Harrell on his lovely composition, "Sail Away." Green takes the Bill Harris solo on Ralph Burns's "Bijou," he and trumpeter Candoli enliven the venerable "Woodchopper's Ball," Broadbent is the pianist on his warmhearted tribute, "Woody 'n Me" (which enfolds radiant solos by Tiberi and trumpeter Greg Gisbert), and Gibbs and DeFranco put a smiley face on George Wallington's paragon of scat, "Lemon Drop." Tiberi's Trane-like tenor is showcased on two numbers ("Body and Soul," Neal Hefti's "The Good Earth") while trombonist John Fedchock plays beautifully (as always) on his feature, the David Raksin/Johnny Mercer standard, "Laura." With lead trumpeter Roger Ingram leading the charge, the Herd has power to spare, much of which is unleashed on "Four Brothers," "The Good Earth," "Lemon Drop" and Dusko Goykovich's playful blues, "Woody's Whistle," which closes the session, both literally and figuratively, on a high note. Let's hope we don't have to wait another decade before the Herd rides again!
Blue Flame; Four Brothers; Laura; Woodchopper's Ball; Sail Away; Make Someone Happy; Bijou; The Good Earth; Woody 'n Me; Lemon Drop; Body and Soul; Woody's Whistle (58:40).
Frank Tiberi, tenor, soprano saxophone, leader; John Nugent, John Gunther, tenor sax, flute; Mike Brignola, baritone sax; John Fedchock, Paul McKee, trombones; Mark Lusk, bass trombone; Roger Ingram, Peter Olstad, George Rabbai, Bryan O'Flaherty, Greg Gisbert, trumpets; John Hicks, piano; David Finck, bass; Jim Rupp, drums. Special guests: Frank Foster, tenor sax; Alan Broadbent, piano; Tom Harrell, flugelhorn; Pete Candoli, trumpet; Urbie Green, trombone; Buddy DeFranco, clarinet; Terry Gibbs, vibes.