Woody Herman's fine band from the fifties never really got its due. It lives in the shadow of the more famous Second Herd, and most of Herman's records from this period remain out of print. However, Herman and company was still at the top of their game. Most of his featured players were relative unknowns, yet were weaned on a steady diet of bebop and Ellington and no doubt absorbed the lessons of those who occupied their chairs before.
This Herman band has the same brassy fire of the Kenton band and the perfectly sculpted swing of the New Testament Basie band (no doubt arranger Neal Hefti played some part in this). The first half of this album features plenty of hot, spitfire soloing from many members of the band. Herman takes a few confident solos, but in most cases is content to let his band members shine.
Puente comes in on the second half for a small program of clattering Afro-Cuban music, much in demand at the time. The Herd knocks up the rhythmic intensity while maintaining a steaming groove.
Bonus tracks from a previous Everest Herman album resurrect some old classics from the band book. Although he's not listed in the liner notes, I'm almost positive that Charlie Byrd is a featured soloist on two numbers (it sure sounds like him, anyway).
Herman gained his respect as a bandleader a short time after the Swing Era was over, but continued to put out a steady supply of worthwhile big band records by embracing the various styles of jazz swirling around in the forties and fifties. Although the Swing Era was gone, the spirit lived on in bands like Herman's.
1. Blue Station 2. Pillar to Post 3. Midnight Sun 4. Woodchopper's Ball 5. Balu 6. Lullaby Of Birdland 7. Latin Flight 8. New Cha Cha 9. Mambo Herd 10. Cha-Cha Chick 11. Tito Meets Woody 12. Carioca 13. Wildroot 14. The Good Earth 15. It's Coolin' Time 16. Black Orchid 17. Sinbad the Sailor 18. Fire island.
Woody Hermna- clarinet; Willie Thomas, Danny Stiles, Hal Posey, Al Forte, Bobby Clark - trumpets; Willie Dennis, Roger DeLilo, Jimmy Giunn - trombones; Al Belletto, Marty Flax, Joe Romano, Jay Migliore - reeds; Jimmy Campbell - drums; Major Holley - bass; Al Planick - piano, Tito Puente - percussion.