Woody Herman

Jazz Casual: The Swingin' Herd

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Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual television series was an early attempt at documenting live jazz in a studio environment, though the videotapes lay long forgotten until licensed for release by Koch. This compilation includes the complete audio portion of two separate appearances by Woody Herman leading his big band. The clarinetist was always open to new repertoire of music from a number of different fields, so Nat Pierce's dark but swinging arrangement of the then-current pop hit "A Taste of Honey" in the first program should surprise no one. Of course, there are plenty of familiar standards like "Deep Purple" and gems from Duke Ellington such as "Satin Doll" and "Mood Indigo," all of them swinging. The second program includes both rehearsal and master takes of Bill Holman's "Jazz Hoot," a piece new to the band's repertoire that Herman was unafraid to share as a work in progress before a national audience. The slowly savored take of Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" showcases Bill Chase's muted trumpet and Herman's sardonic alto sax. "After You've Gone" (after Herman's subtle introduction on clarinet) is transformed into an explosive swinger. The loose, bluesy workout of "Cousins" is a perfect closer for the second broadcast, with plenty of hilarious solos. The only shortcoming of this release is the failure to identify the soloists in the notes. Although this CD remained in print for a rather brief period, these performances have since turned up on various DVDs with the video portion as well, so they shouldn't be too difficult to acquire in one format or the other.

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