The Herdís roots are in the dance organizations that employed Herman in the 1930s. Herman -- a clarinetist -- worked around Chicago and on the road in a number of different bands, and finally began building his own. While he had a couple of blues hits, the band didnít do much of any great significance until the mid-1940s when he and his members fell under the spell of two extraordinary influences: Ellington and bebop.
Hermanís men were different from the rest. They didnít just work in music Ė they were into it. They carried records with them on the road and listened to the best of everything in jazz. Compositionally, that meant Ellington. Improvisationally, it meant bebop. ďI would say that I got into jazz when I got into Woody Herman's band,Ē Neal Hefti, trumpeter and arranger, related later.
After disbanding in 1946 while Herman tried to become a homebody, he ended up forming what would be called The Second Herd within a year. The group had an unmistakably different attitude that can be summed up in a few names: Herbie Steward, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff. Later, Steward would be replaced by Al Cohn, but this Second Herd also became known as the Four Brothers band because of the Jimmy Guiffre hit that featured the saxophone section.