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The Complete Woody Herman Columbia (1945-7)(#223)Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set
" Playing the brilliant arrangements of the 22 year old Ralph Burns, Herman and his Thundering Herds made music that is as electrifying today as it was six decades ago." - Loren Schoenberg, liner notes
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Limited Edition: 5000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00
These are the recordings that introduced a new sound and fury to band music in the 1940s. The musicians and arrangers whose names you think of first. The songs that topped the charts then, and are most-remembered today. All from the one bandleader ahead of anyone else.
Here they are, massively collected on seven CDs from the Columbia vaults for the first time anywhere: Woody Herman's First Herd, plus first recordings by The Second Herd, and the "group within the group," The Woodchoppers. It's a set we've been eager to release for years now, documenting the early evolution of one of the most important voices in jazz.
But given Mosaic's mania for completeness, we've found much more than the Herds you know. The set's 141 tracks include a whopping 35 alternate takes and 10 previously unissued tunes. You'll listen in during rehearsals, and discover significant but rejected takes, on such timeless hits as "Apple Honey," "Caldonia," "Goosey Gander," "The Good Earth," "Wild Root," "Igor," "Sidewalks of Cuba," and "Keen and Peachy."
Hefti was one of many arrangers working with Herman in those years who gave the band its distinctive voice. The others included Chubby Jackson, Ralph Burns, Flip Phillips and Bill Harris. The blend of modern writing and improvising over traditionally-powered big band arrangements is what makes the music sound fresh -- even today. The soloing was top notch as well, by Harris, Pete Candoli, Shorty Rogers, Red Norvo and others.
The first five discs are all First Herd and you owe it to yourself to hear what was going on with this band. It's clear these arrangers were devouring everything they could find, incorporating much that was revolutionary, eclectic and surprising into what was essentially a popular form.
One disc by the Woodchoppers (a pared-down group of the top players from the first orchestra) includes, on many previously unissued takes, the fleet soloing of Sonny Berman on trumpet, Harris on trombone, Herman, Phillips on tenor saxophone, vibist Red Norvo, Rogers or Jimmy Rowles on piano, guitarists Billy Bauer and Chuck Wayne, Jackson or Joe Mondragon on bass, Don Lamond on drums and the arrangements of Ralph Burns.
"Four Brothers" is the classic from the Second Herd, but you'll pour over fourteen more gems and nine previously unheard alternates within these recordings. These guys played it cool, in the Lester Young style. Their attitude defined this group more than the fire of Herman's previous organization. Herbie Steward's uncomplicated lines; Serge Chaloff's emotionalism; Zoot Sims' light, natural swing; Stan Getz's impeccable phrasing; Al Cohn's rich tone. Together, they blended like nothing anyone had heard before.
All these revealing delights are presented in lavish Mosaic style with sound re-mastered to our demanding specifications almost entirely from the original lacquer discs.
Read More About Woody Herman:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »
“Woody Herman’s bands had it all in the years documented here: hit vocal tunes, top-rated national radio show, star instrumental soloists, new instrumental sounds hailed by jazz critics and fans alike, adventurous arrangements, female singers with sex appeal and a level of musicianship marking them as among the best large ensembles in jazz history.” – George Kanzler, All About Jazz
- Audio Quality
- Sample Session Notes
In the age of microsizing, every Mosaic Records Box Set booklet is still 11 x 11 inches to allow our customers to appreciate all the extras we put into printing them (and for easier reading).
The source material here is culled from the original lacquer discs at Sony Archives. All were in great shape and unless you had heard this ground-breaking unit in person, you’d swear you were mesmerized in front of one of the greatest jazz ensembles of all time
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The photos provided for this long awaited set literally transport you to the stage of the Paramount Theater, The Hotel Commodore in NY, Columbia’s recording studios, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, the RKO Theater in Boston and the Café Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania in NY.
(A) In examining the band’s first Columbia session in detail, we will discover how intricately these pieces are structured and why they wear so well . and have attained classic status. They recorded three different types of pieces – a romantic ballad, an out- and- out swinger and a rhythmic ballad.
Laura came from the score David Raksin composed for the film of the same name as a replacement for Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady, director Otto Preminger’s first choice. Ralph Burns’ exquisite setting is equal to the tune’s sophistication. Taking his cue from the song’s unusual structure (it has none of the verbatim AABA repeats endemic of the pop tunes of the day), Burns eschews the formulaic approach most big band arrangers favored, and arriveding at a concept that was more through-composed than the norm. The chromatic introduction presages Laura’s modulatory nature, and sets up the sustained notes of the melody. Herman’s alto sets out the melody accompanied variously by the band’s three choirs (saxophones, trombones and trumpets, in that order). The alternations of unison and voiced phrases, texture and octave placement render placethe melody in striking context. Indeed, the unison tenor sax lines first heard in measures 9-11 (heard more clearly on the alternate due to different microphone placement on the alternate) reappear strategically in the next chorus. Many of these accompanimental these phrases are inversions, elaborations or expansions/contractions of the melody. Burns’ mastery of the jazz orchestra reveals itself in every measure. Sam Marowitz’s lead alto is also given a chance to shine as the sax section fills in throughout. , and then it also surfaces for a few measures before the vocal, giving us two distinct sonorities – this rarely happened in band’s where the leader had a distinctive sound.
Burns admired Eddie Sauter’s writing, and the stark modulation to the vocal is accomplished with Sauterian brevity and directness by eliding the last alto note with the trumpets entrance, shifting the piece onto a different tonal grid. Burns outdoes himself with even more brilliant panoply of sounds and melodies surrounding Herman’s vocal. The trombones play handmaiden for the most part to the saxophones and trumpets – hear the timbre of tightly muted trumpets over the warm sound of the open, mid-register trombones. Burns redeploys the unison tenors reappear to amplify the words “the laugh” and “she gave” – formal subtlety defined. The rhythm section was an integral element in this band, as you will hear very shortly. We hear the first glimmers of this with a handful of eight-note bass phrases, and, like all great composers, Burns always has his eye on the bass line and its relationship to whatever happens to be on top. The piano can be heard in the background. There’s a moment at the beginning of the second half of the vocal chorus on f the alternate when Burns is brought up in the mix briefly when Woody sings “on the train that is passing through”.
Burns uses the instruments like a great poker player plays a hand, making the most of the contrast between the vibraphone obbligato to Harris’s trombone solo. It is difficult to appreciate today how different this band sounded at the time these recordings were made. It was they WAY they did things. Many of the instrumental gestures and phrases came out of the Ellington band, but the Herman band put their emphasis on different aspects of them. It’s hard to imagine Bill Harris’s playing without Lawrence Brown’s, but Harris turned it something equally personal and profound. The Ssame goes for the trumpet section’s wild bravado – vestiges of Rex Stewart and, Cootie Williams lead playing are all there, but transformed into something else again.
This comes to the fore at the top of Apple Honey. This sounds like no other band. They had their own sound, and that’s the first element in a jazz identity. Now we can hear the rhythm section at full tilt. Clearly, Tough is in the driver’s seat. Bauer and Jackson achieve a staccato attack that leaves plenty of room for Toughthe drummer to anchor things on the bottom of the beat. Listen for the times when Jackson plays syncopated figures (here on the second shout chorus) and how they create a tension with Tough’s rock-solid foundation. Clearly obsessed with timbre, Tough introduces a handful of elements, which he alternateappliess with a composer’s sense. First and foremost are the cymbal splashes. They dot the performance throughout and provide almost subliminal formal landmarks. He does this while keeping time with his right hand on the ride cymbal, so he must have made the splashes with his left hand – not easy. Studies of the few moments of Tough that exist on film confirm that he didn’t do things the way most drummers did. Tough favored a Chinese cymbal that created a wash of sound that surrounded but never obscured the ensemble. He used his snare drum sparely, but always to great effect. You can hear it on all three takes as he sets up the cymbal splashes during Harris’ bridge, kicks the last eight of Herman’s solo, and plays along with Pete Candoli’s purposely nonsensical closing bridge. The bass drum was at the heart of Tough’s conception. He played it at all volumes and loved to pace it, Bolero-like, to achieve a great climax. You can hear this clearly in the ultimate shout choruses on Apple Honey. Listen for the subtle gradations in power. At the root is Tough’s (in Artie Shaw’s phrase) great physic intensity. In his early years in Chicago, Tough learned a lot from the New Orleans masters, and never lost a taste for the more eccentric effects they created. – Many of these involved integrating the bass drum into complex accents; the fills at the end of Harris’s bridge on the second alternate hint at this. Then, of course, there are the rag-tag endings Tough favored – quite a difference from the on- the- button finishes that Goodman and Shaw and all the rest demanded.
The piece itself is a hodge-podge of riffs expertly ordered by the band. This is what is known as a head arrangement. Various members initiate a series of riffs over a basic chord sequence (in this case I Got Rhythm) and over the course of time they begin to coalesce. This creates the frame for the soloists, who tailor their efforts to fit cohesively into a unified whole. This is what we encounter with Apple Honey. The fact that the solos on all three takes are relatively “set” is not an indictment of the player’s lack of improvisatory skills, but proof positive of their compositional sense. Where is it written that every solo you ever play has to be done in an I Ching fashion? A true improviser can vary their approach; indeed it would odd if a solo doesn’t begin to take on a particular shape as time goes by.
The first sax riff we hear is a variation on Ben Webster’s famous Cottontail solo, and there are further echoes of Ben in Flip Phillip’s tenor solo, but his best moment of the session is still to come. He is followed by the band’s other major soloist, Bill Harris, who could make a valve-trombone sound like a slide, and visa versa by virtue of technical virtuosity and his wide array of articulations. He did things that had never been before. Trombonists have to factor in the position of the slide when they play, and Harris (along with Jack Teagarden and Jimmy Knepper, for starters) figured out short cuts that let them reach intervals that were next-to-impossible for other trombonists. His solo on the second alternate is chock full of phrases that would never have occurred to most other trombonists. Harris may well have been inspired to reach beyond the norm by the work of Dicky Wells. Attention must be paid to the minimalistic riffs placed behind the solos – a 1-2-3-4 hit behind Phillips and a rolling sax phrase for Harris. They provide just the right propulsion without getting in the way, which is just what a riff is supposed to do.
The session continues with the blues ballad I Wonder. It is even more original than the preceding two pieces. It’s fair to say that nothing like this had ever been heard before. Ellington, Sauter, Carter, Finegan, Jenkins, Strayhorn, Thornhill, Evans and Challis had all devised different approaches to ballads that took them out of the province of being filler in between the swing tunes. Burns came up with an approach that is as audacious as Bill Harris’s trombone style in its sudden juxtapositions of different moods and rhythms. The superb balance attained by the Columbia engineers' permits us to once again focus on Tough’s contributions and all the other subtle details that are all too often lost in the mix. The drummer starts on brushes, padding along throughout the first chorus and tenor solo, emphasizing only a handful of phrases during the bridge with subtle set-ups. Tough, like his peer Sid Catlett, could say more with a perfectly placed quarter note with his brushes than many more bombastic drummers ever did with a whole battery of percussion. He makes a subtle switch to sticks after underlining brass figures during Harris’s bridge, and widens the beat with his sticks and cymbals during the eight. Shadow Wilson had been exploring similar rhythmic corners around this time with the Earl Hines and Count Basie bands. Herman’s closing alto solo finds Tough clicking quietly on his hi-hat stand – a device adapted from his close study of New Orleans masters Zutty Singelton and Baby Dodds, who did similar things on various parts of the trap set.
The saxophone section provides the cushion for the opening and closing choruses, joined at structural joints by the brass. Remember that a piece of musical manuscript paper is blank when a composer sits down – every note of the saxophone accompaniment, which provides such an effective backdrop for the vocal, was selected out of a myriad set of possibilities by Burns, and while this seems like stating the obvious, most people remain blind to the choices a composer/arranger must make and how the choice of one note over another can make all the difference in the world. The baritone saxophone always carried special import in the Ellington band, as it does here – Skippy DeSair has an attractively plangent sound, and has received precious little in the way of critical kudos.
The dramatic set up for Phillips’ solo has its analogues both within and without jazz. In 1939, John Ford went out of his way to give John Wayne’s entrance in Stagecoach emphasis with a rapid closeup. It was a scene that announced the arrival of a new star. And in his first recordings as a regular member of the Ellington Orchestra, made on Valentines Day 1940, Ben Webster was gingerly placed in the at the center of the frame on a handful of ballads. Here Phillips, in his best Webster mode, receives similar attention from Burns, who gives the impression of having suspended the tempo before clearing the orchestral deck for Flip. There are other Ellingtonian allusions peppered throughout, most notably trumpeter Sonny Berman’s elaboration of Cootie Williams’ plunger –muted style. Berman’s penchant for abstraction matched Harris’s, and found a perfect home in this musical world, which, like Ellington’s, afforded room for humor and irony. Harris preaches his half chorus with impeccable rhythm, and gets in one of his trademark melismatic slurs half through the bridge.
Herman was a superb vocalist, best on ballads, when far away from the minstrelesque interpolations he favored on rhythm tunes, such as Amen. The shift in band style is jarring. This is how they sounded in 1942-43 as they were evolving from "The Band That Plays The Blues". Written by Roger Segure, it is as stodgily conventional with its solid blocks of sectional writing and lack of serious counterpoint and harmonic subtlety in the context of the time as the band’s new repertoire was challenging.
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"Finally, the incredible First Herd collected in the ultimate set! The sensation of hearing every detail of "Out of this World" with Jackson's haunting bass lines, Harris & Phillips changing their solos in each take, "new" piano fills, the orchestra's collegial interpretation of Burn's genius (especially in the vocal numbers), Mosaic's remastering and Mr. Shoenberg's outstanding essay and analyses."
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Limited Edition Photographs
Selected images became the album cover shots for Blue Note's brilliant designer Reid Miles, and are instantly recognized by millions. Now, museum-quality prints in limited editions can be owned forever... But only by a few.
Each image will be made available for one month only. At the end of that month, only the images ordered will be printed and that will be the end of the Limited Edition.