Thursday, September 27, 2012
Woody Herman - Big New Herd at the Monterey Jazz Festival (1960)
This album, recorded at the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival, features Herman's standard band studded with alumni such as trumpeters Conte Candoli and Al Porcino, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, guitarist Charlie Byrd, trombonist Urbie Green, and vibraphonist Vic Feldman. It is also important to note that this album is one of the first Herman albums to feature a young Bill Chase on lead trumpet; a player that would have quite a history with the band through the 1960s. The set opens with the famous Jimmy Giuffe sax section feature "Four Brothers" which really put Herman on the map in 1947. It's important to note that when this tune came out, big bands weren't really playing bop influenced material. The exceptions to this were the bands of Billy Eckstine, Claude Thorhill, and Woody Herman. Eckstine was notable for having Dizzy and Bird in his band for a time and Thornhill's arranger Gil Evans arranged tunes such as "Donna Lee" and "Anthropology" for the band. Herman's band, however, endured the financial hardships of the late 1940s and was the last remaining figure of these early big band voyeurs into the bop style. The second track "Like Some Blues Man" is one of my personal favorites on the album and features solos by Vic Feldman, Conte Candoli, and Charlie Byrd. The real energy in this tune comes from the star-studded trumpet section which really gets to shine in between the solos and at the very end of the chart. "Skoobeedoobee" is a great tour-de-force by the whole band alternating sax and brass section soli and featuring solos by Zoot Sims, Urbie Green, and Woody Herman. The band shows a real tightness of rhythm throughout the whole track; the sort of thing that only happens when its a mature ensemble with great lead players. "Monterey Apple Tree" is a reworked version of Herman's "Apple Honey" and is quite a treat for the extended solos by a large number of players throughout the entire band. The next track "Skylark" is a wonderful for trombonist Urbie Green (a personal favorite of mine) and an earlier example of a chart that he would record on The Persuasive Trombone of Urbie Green, Vol. 2 in 1961. "Skylark" shows the ensemble's variety of dynamics from the soft backgrounds of the saxes and muted brass to the boisterous runs and "pops" where the brass takes out all the stops. Urbie's warm, dark tone makes "Skylark" a great break on an album that has mostly uptempo charts. The album closes with "Magpie" a great swinging chart with solo breaks and a magnificent close with the clarinet of the leader. This album is a real harbinger to the success that the 1960s Thundering Herd would experience.