While this is hardly "the Swingin'est Big Band Ever," as hyped on the cover on this Verve CD reissue of an LP that originally appeared on Phillips, this 1963 edition of Woody Herman's big band is a strong one, with an emphasis on well-constructed blues charts. Joe Newman's hard-swinging "Molasses," which features tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico and trumpeter Bill Chase, is a snappy opener, followed by a driving arrangement of Horace Parlan's "Blues for J.P." Nistico takes the spotlight again in a memorable setting of Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie," while trombonist Phil Wilson shines as a soloist in both Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and the forgotten chestnut "It's a Lonesome Old Town (When You're Not Around)." The only letdown of the date is Herman's throwaway vocal chorus in Chase's "Camel Walk," which follows the leader's potent clarinet solo. Although fans will prefer the earlier editions of the Woody Herman herd, this CD, which is available only until May 2005, is well worth acquiring by big band aficionados.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden