This single-disc compilation on Definitive -- an offshoot of the great folks who produce and distribute the Disconforme and Lonehill Jazz imprints -- is a very solid collection of Woody Herman's greatest bands. Though the lineups in the Thundering Herd were always shifting, they did remain relatively steady during the period between 1945-1947. This is the band that brought to the jazz scene great young talents such as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Flip Phillips, John LaPorta, pianist Jimmy Rowles, trumpeters such as Shorty Rogers and Pete Condoli, drummer Buddy Rich, and composer/arrangers Neal Hefti and Al Cohn (who would become a later member of the band on saxophone). The music here walks an interesting line: while the sounds found on nuggets such as "Woodchooper's Ball," "Northwest Passage," Jimmy Giuffre's classic title track, and Johnny Mercer's eternal "Laura" all bear the signature of dance band swing -- in steep decline in the postwar years -- the collection also offers the view that this music was far from dead creatively. What we really hear in these 25 glorious tunes are the roots of something that would take another half-decade to begin to gel in the music of Stan Kenton: in other words, the definable roots of progressive jazz. There are no arguments that Duke Ellington and Count Basie were leading killer outfits that were perhaps far more advanced harmonically, but both those orchestras had already abandoned any vestiges of swing and were entities unto themselves. This is a very fine single-disc introduction to Herman's terrific bands and the music they played during this period, with decent sound and rudimentary but serviceable notes -- and sold for a great price point.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek