Woody Herman

Herd at Montreux

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This live performance was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland at 3:30 a.m.! It chronologically follows Sonny Rollins' 1974 Montreux set, The Cutting Edge. Herman plays soprano saxophone exclusively, leads a 15-piece band through contemporary funk and fusion music of the day, and is backed by such fine soloists as trombonist Jim Pugh, tenor saxophonists Greg Herbert and Frank Tiberi, and trumpeter Dave Stahl. Andy LaVerne plays primarily electric piano, while Chip Jackson anchors the band on bass; both would go on to long careers as sidemen and leaders, but this is the seed of their early work. Overt funk and wah-wah, and Herbert's overblown tenor, accent the Temptations' hit "Can't Get Next to You," while Stahl's excellent horn blowing and LaVerne's arpeggios flavor the slow, rockish swing and swelling horns of Leon Russell and Delaney & Bonnie's "Superstar." Harder funk and Afro-Cuban rhythms buoy clarion horns and Herman's Wayne Shorter-like solo on Gary Anderson's chart of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" (which liner-note writer Herb Wong called an "acid feel" arrangement), while the Bill Mays-penned, Alan Broadbent-organized, flute-drenched (by Tiberi, Herbert, and Anderson) samba "Montevideo" starts with an upbeat swing and moves to LaVerne's Chick Corea-styled solo. Broadbent also wrote the beautiful Duke Ellington tribute "Tantum Ergo," which features a hymnal vocal choir and Herbert's soulful, pungent tenor sax dancing over meditational horns. Billy Cobham's "Crosswinds" is less potent than the original, but still plenty funky, with horns filling in considerable cracks. A CD for Herman completists only, this prefigured the direction he would take for most of the '70s, following trends rather than setting them.

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