This CD compilation is a bit of an oddity, mixing tracks by Woody Herman previously issued on Phillips, Limelight, and Verve with nine songs appearing on this disc for the first time anywhere. Jazz Hour doesn't take the time to identify the source of the music, a three-day gig in May 1963 at Basin Street West in Hollywood, though the bootleg label does at least list the personnel and most of the composers correctly, even if the spellings of the latter are often atrocious. Other than what sounds like a battered upright piano, the rest of the band is very well-recorded, and Woody Herman & the Fourth Herd are clearly in high gear as they range from classic jazz ("Jazz Me Blues") to hard bop and soul-jazz (Horace Silver's "The Preacher" and "Sister Sadie," as well as a funky take of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man") and standards ("The Days of Wine and Roses," "Summertime," and "It's a Lonesome Old Town"). In addition to Herman's exciting clarinet, some of the top soloists include trombonist Phil Wilson, trumpeter Billy Hunt, and tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico. There's even one track that Herman alumni have been unable to identify. The only other sonic headache is the leader's inability to stay consistently on the mic as he makes announcements. Given that over half of the CD features otherwise-unavailable material, this release is worth picking up.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden