Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)
If you are a fan of Woody Herman, or simply want to learn about this important era and Woody’s fight to keep the big band sound not just alive, but ALIVE – you couldn’t start with a better collection.
Limited Edition: 2,000 copies

7 CDs -  $119.00


Our Most Unique Collection Yet From Woody Herman -
From The Very Beginning To His Heyday, To His Independence

Mosaic's new collection from bandleader Woody Herman is, flat out, one of the most unique sets we've ever issued, thanks to a rare opportunity it gives us to combine the treasures of a few different music libraries.

"The Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars and MGM Sessions (1943-1954)" presents Woody on seven CDs over a remarkable span of his development: at the very beginning of his career leading a band that would become one of the most enduring in music; a few years later, in the studio and in concert at Carnegie Hall, when the band was enjoying its much-deserved, worldwide renown; and during the Third Herd period, when Woody was not only running his own band but his own record operation as well.

These three dips into Woody's career have had far less exposure than his more-famous work for Columbia and Capitol, previously collected by Mosaic on sets that are now completely sold out. Some of the music has been completely unavailable since the long-playing era. And even if you own our other box sets -- or the Mosaic Select mini-set documenting his early 1960s work on Phillips -- you've never had a chance to sample such diverse material in one set by a bandleader who was never content to sit still.

Through its diverse material and the evolving nature of the personnel, Woody's point of view remains consistently crisp, energetic, youthful and relevant. His commitment to big bands was never nostalgic or locked in time, but always looking ahead.

A Leader Elected.

Woody Herman - a child vaudeville star -- was certain of his future as a jazz musician when still in his early teens. He was already touring with the Isham Jones band when Jones, at 40, decided his copyrights on songs like "See You In My Dreams" and "It Had to Be You" were enough to get him comfortably off the road and through the rest of his life. He announced to the band he was abandoning music to buy a ranch, and left them high and dry. The remaining members met to determine a future. They decided to team with members of the disbanded Pollack band and essentially elected Herman their leader, due to his wide knowledge of show biz. Herman was 23.

That youthful experience leading musicians older than he was, more-or-less as a collective, may have been a significant factor in his building each new organization around the musicians at the music stands, rather than from the book of charts in front of them. He had a reputation for treating his band members as peers instead of employees, and each new incarnation of Woody's band provided him with new performers and new writers as well.

A New Contract.

Soon after reforming, Woody got them a contract at Decca. They were known as "The Band That Plays The Blues," in itself an indication this group was for listening, as well as for dancing. With some of the more veteran players going off to war, Woody supplemented with younger musicians including Chubby Jackson, Ray Wetzel, Eddie Bert, Frances Wayne and later Dave Tough, Flip Phillips, Bill Harris, Neal Hefti and Ralph Burns. Hefti was a stone cold Dizzy Gillespie fan, and along with Burns, he started writing for Herman in the new style. It was their interest in bebop that gave this organization its forward-leaning predilection, not any specific point of view that Herman may have championed. Working with younger players, and giving so much of the floor to them, determined he'd always be playing something new and vibrant.

Those initial Decca sides are the very beginnings of the classic First Herd that set the standard for all of Woody's future work. Woody considered himself a soloist among the other brilliant talents in the band, not the standout. And with guest artists like Ben Webster, Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges, and Juan Tizol in the line-up, why would he hog the spotlight? Woody's languid blues lines and fleet arpeggios are unmistakably his own, generally delivered in short bursts that favor his technical ability and soulfulness without resorting to showiness or unnecessary flair. You hear from the beginning Woody's take on how you swing in music - when the ensemble is tight and precise, the soloist or vocalist has something to swing against.

An Underrated Singer.

There are also plenty of showcases for Woody's talent as a vocalist, and for the work of "girl vocalist" Frances Wayne (her very first recordings). Woody has never gotten enough recognition for his talent as a singer, perhaps because people who like labels branded him as someone who sang in a popular style. But he was highly entertaining, thoroughly competent, and expressive - he could really communicate the story of the song.

With a nationwide radio show, the record contract, and advertising campaigns, Woody grew impatient with the pace of releases by Decca and opted instead for a contract with Columbia. That's where this set breaks off and our previously released box picked up.

We jump back in in 1946 for a performance by Woody and the Herd at Carnegie Hall, featuring the full orchestra as well as performances by the slimmed-down Woodchoppers (Sonny Berman, Shorty Rogers, Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Red Norvo, Tony Aless, Billy Bauer, Chubby Jackson, and Don Lamond or Ralph Burns). The players were young, the tempos were bright, the swinging was hard, and the energy never flagged. Even on ballads like "Everywhere," a well-known feature for trombonist Harris, there's an aggressive quality to the accompaniment and Harris' response that feels modern and alive. Additional recordings on MGM from January, March and June of 1951, and more from May and September of 1952, feature what became know as The Third Herd, offering different takes on the blues and model examples of a one of Woody's signature motifs - unison lines that suddenly explode into a fan of harmonic exuberance. The orchestra includes such stellar names as Pete Candoli, Si Zentner, Don Ferrara, Sonny Igoe, Urbie Green, Jimmy Guiffre, Louie Bellson, Dave McKenna, Bill Perkins, and Sam Staff. Arrangements were by Burns, Hefti, Gene Roland and Nat Pierce.

Declaring Independence.

Woody was still in his Third Herd era when he decided to start his own label, Mars Records. He kept it going from 1952 through 1954, delivering credible versions of "Stompin' At The Savoy," "Early Autumn," "Moten Stomp," and others. He rounds out the offering with Woody Herman-takes on popular numbers like "I Love Paris" and "I'm Making Up For Lost Time" (vocal by Dolly Houston), mambo, calypso, his signatures blues, and the ever-present novelty numbers audiences could depend on Woody to deliver. Chubby Jackson had returned to the band, and his solos along with those by Arno Marsh, Don Fagerquist, Nat Pierce, Kai Winding and Carl Fontana are a pleasure to hear.

Today, hearing these first flowerings of Woody's music alongside later incarnations of his band reminds us how tirelessly he worked not just to feed nostalgia for a particular sound, but to remain popular and a significant musical force.

Exclusively Available. But Not For Long.

Like all our Mosaic collections, "The Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars and MGM Sessions (1943-1954)" will be available for a very brief time and then it will be withdrawn forever. The set comprises 131 selections, on seven CDs. Included in our deluxe box is our exclusive Mosaic booklet written and designed to accompany this set, with an original essay and track-by-track analysis, many rare photographs of Herman and the band from this era, and a complete discography, which in some instances corrects information incorrectly attributed to these recording dates.

If you are a fan of Woody Herman, or simply want to learn about this important era and Woody's fight to keep the big band sound not just alive, but ALIVE - you couldn't start with a better collection. Please order today.

Read More About WoodyHerman:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes

The material for this Woody Herman set of Decca, MGM and Mars sessions will be in the best sound possible via metal parts and lacquer discs all stemming from the Universal Music vaults as well as mint condition 78s that have been provided by various collectors and institutions around the world.

Photo Copyright © Protected
We have collected photos from this period of Woody Herman’s career from the archives of Herman Leonard and other sources many very rarely seen of Woody as well as various members of his big band.


Click here to write a review

  Outstanding Outstanding Outstanding Box Set
Great things come and happen to those who wait to see it through. I am a big fan of Mosaic Records as most of the reviewers are. This is a Fantastic Box Set and I will always be patient for Mosaic Sets no matter how long it takes I am confident it will be great. I am happy to see that Mosaic Records is here to share great music with everyone in the world. So I kindly ask all reviewers to understand we and Mosaic are in this together. I am sure Mosaic would love to push the music out fast, but I feel they are in business for Great Music versus quick money. Its like a duck on the water the effort it takes to give us this music. The duck glides on the water surface, but underneath the water its paddling fervently, which makes it look easy on the surface. Cheers!!
  A lot of Straw
Too many vocal tracks that sound out of date, The most interesting instrumental songs Sometimes integrals have that, all the good and bad too.
  Nice Set
Surprised to see all the requests for earlier Deccas. Both GRP Decca and Naxos have CDs of the earlier Decca material and they are both decent samples of Hermans earlier work and based on these sets there is not much that deserves the Mosaic treatment. According to my old Joyce discography, it looks like Herman recorded a lot of lame pop material of the day and things did not really start to happen until 1943/44. This set leads nicely into Mosaics old Columbia set. P Shore
  Finally Received
Ordered in May , finally received in mid December. I understand there were copyright and other similar issues that made this set the most difficult Mosaic ever had to produce. The remastering is great - much better than the bits and pieces of this stuff I already had. Booklet is absolutely adequate.
  fairy tale release
supposed to be available but no sign of it. never any positive information. just kicking the ball down the road. Ive been a customer for 3 or 4 decades and the way this has been dealt with has destroyed trust and any relationship. I wont be putting myself through this again for the lee morgan set if it does materialise. so disappointed.
  From the Very Beginning?...?...?
Well you do have to have a starting point for this set, 1943. However, Woody Herman recorded his first records for Decca back in December 1936! Now, Someone in France did Issue his 1936-1940 records on 6 CDs, and they are long out of print. Also the 1941-1942 recordings have not been issued in their completeness. also, there is enough music there to fill 4 full-length CDs. Make this your next project, Mosaic. Thanks!
  Getting Impatient Here
First it was May, then June, and now AUGUST! Just a good serious explanation will suffice. PMS
  A Fresh Career-Defining Turning Point!
Once Again, we would like to thank Mosaic Records for giving this set of well-structured big band sessions that Woody Herman recorded from 1943 to 1954 for Decca Records, MGM Records and Mars label in their own expanded and accurate format. If I have the chance, I would like to try out this 7-CD Boxed Set that chronicles this career-defining chapter from Woody Herman himself. However, Mosaic Records may want to look into his earlier classic recordings that he made for Decca Records from 1936 to 1942 as they made him a household name in The Swing Era and gave him international prominence after getting his start in Isham Jones big band, where with the help from including previously un-issued tracks and extra material related to the Decca output, these Decca Recordings would quite fit well onto seven or eight CDs. Also, I still have the sweeping boxed set of his trend-setting Thundering Herd sessions he made for Columbia Records from 1945 to 1948, and I was deeply impressed of the job you did on them. And if you have the time, be sure you look into the legendary forward-thinking big band maestros entire career-building Decca Records output from 1936 to 1942, that way you will give various listeners of how his trend-setting music career really got started.
  Hey you made a mistake...
That was Fran Warren, not Frances Wayne on the 1951 recordings. I have the original discs. I can understand why. They have the same initials
  Perfect Completion For My Early Herman Collection
Ive picked up a lot of this stuff on LPs and CDs over the years but since I have all the other Mosiac Herman material I might as well complete a matching set. I hope it will come in the normal single or single/double jewel cases rather than the fat 4 disc cases so I can slide them in between the other sets on my Herman shelf in chronological order. Sorry for being so anal retentive. PMS
  Excellent set, long overdue. Just get it already....
The Third Herd recordings are very hard to find and acquire. I have a couple of LPs and one CD. The audio quality is pretty bad. This set is a Godsend to Herman appreciators and fans of Big Band Jazz. I consider them essential and look forward to hearing them done RIGHT.
I am very happy to hear about the new Woody Herman set. I already own the Phillips three c.d. set, and am pleased with the sound. There is only a single c.d. from GRP that covers the popular records made for Decca.Speaking of Decca,do you think it is possible about reissuing the complete Bob Crosby on your label
  ive waited for this.
WOW! its a dream come true. now we can hear all this wonderful music by the road father. i know this set wont disappoint. hurry up and order your copy today!
  Perfect for this lazy collector
I used to bust my chops searching for original 78s or old LP reissues of stuff like this. But I know Mosaic can be trusted to issue great material in excellent sound and wonderful packaging. So now I just pre-order and sit back and wait. You should too!
  Filling the Gaps
How wonderful this much needed Woody Herman set is to go ahead as it will nicely link up the other two magnificent Mosaic boxes and provide a complete coverage of the band from 1943 to 1956. I give it four stars as for the sake of completeness a lot of forgettable early 1950s pop songs had to be included. But the sprinkling of great instrumental arrangements more than compensates.
  Havent heard it yet
Box set picks up where Decca Records gave in to the recording ban, November, 1943. At this point in time, it was Woodys best band! he got plenty of help from BEN WEBSTER, JUAN TIZOL, BUDD JOHNSON, GEORGE AULD, and others. Francis Wayne and Chubby Jackson had already joined that band, and Dave Matthews and Ralph Burns were doing the arrangements. so the nucleus of the so-called first Herd was in place. The set jumps to the 1946 Carnegie Hall Concert, then to the 1951 MGM Records featuring The Third Herd, then immediately followed by Woodys Mars records from 1952-54. he had formed his own label after being turned down by mitch miller, and Woody didnt take that too kindly. Columbia was nice enough, however, to let Woody use their massive 30th Church studio.
  Looking forward to this one
I am excited to read the news of this new set. I own some old LPs containing exciting music from this set and looking forward to hear all of it in excellent sound. Especially the 1944 period when the First Herd was formed. 4 Stars as I am obliged to rate it but havent heard it yet

Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)
Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)
Limited Edition: 2,000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00

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