Woody Herman led many big bands throughout his career. Some biographies give very little space to his earliest groups and start out with the First Herd of 1944-46, but Herman was a bandleader as early as 1936. This CD actually starts out with a few Herman appearances with Isham Jones during March 1936. The full orchestra performs "Stompin' At The Savoy" and then "Isham Jones' Juniors" (an octet taken from the big band) performs six numbers, four of which include Herman vocals. Virginia Verrell sings a spirited "Slappin' The Bass" and the only instrumental is "Nola" but the best number (and one that would reappear with Herman in the future) is "Fan It." By Nov. 1936 the clarinetist-altoist was leading his own big band, one that also included five other musicians from Isham Jones' orchestra which had broken up a few months earlier. Few listeners probably know that the very first Herman big band mostly featured his ballad vocalizing; "Woodchoppers Ball" would not change the orchestra's direction until 1939. Only one song among the 16 selections by Woody Herman's orchestra is an instrumental ("Mr. Ghost Goes To Town"). The leader' singing ranges from insipid and romantic to (in a few cases) swinging; best are "Doctor Jazz," "Trouble In Mind" and "It Happened Down In Dixieland." But this set is strictly for completists and Woody Herman collectors who are curious to know how he started out.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow
feat: Woody Herman