Sunday, June 13, 2010


American jazz clarinetist,alto and sopranno saxophonist, singer and big band leader Woodrow Charles Herman , better known as Woody Herman, was born on May 16,1913 in Milwaukee,Wisconsin. As a child he worked as a singer in vaudeville, then became a professional saxophone player at age 15.

When Isham Jones's band, of which Herman had been a member, broke up in 1936, he formed his own band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, with some of his band mates. This band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and were sometimes billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues".

Chief among the more than 50 hits recorded by this band were "Woodchoppers' Ball," "Blue Flame," and "Blues in the Night."Reeds player Woody Herman (1913), who had formed his orchestra in 1936 and had already hit the charts with bluesy numbers composed by Joe Bishop, such as Woodchoppers' Ball (april 1939) and Blue Flame (march 1941), as well as with Harold Arlen's Blues in the Night (september 1941), arranged in a traditional manner a` la Duke Ellington or Count Basie, first showed his interest in the new trends when he hired Dizzy Gillespie, who composed Down Under (july 1942) for him.

In the following years Herman assembled an impressive set of talents, such as bassist Chubby Jackson (1942), drummer Dave Tough (1944), guitarist Billy Bauer (1944), trombonist Bill Harris (1944), pianist Ralph Burns (1944), trumpeter Neal Hefti (1944), vibraphonist Kenneth "Red Norvo" Norville (1945), trumpeter Sonny Berman (1945), trumpeter Shorty Rogers (1945) and formed the first Herd.

Burns and Hefti (and later Rogers) were also skilled composers and arrangers, who provided excellent material to top the energetic rhythm section. Hits such as Herman's own novelty Goosey Gander (march 1945), Burns' Bijou Rhumba A La Jazz (august 1945) Harris' Your Father's Mustache (september 1945) Herman's ebullient Apple Honey (february 1945), Louis Jordan's funny Caldonia (february 1945), Herman's Blowin' Up A Storm (november 1945) Burns' sprightly Northwest Passage (march 1945), Hefti's Good Earth (august 1945), Hefti's Wild Root (november 1945), made them the most popular band that was trying to assimilate the new language of bebop.

Herman's "second herd" of 1947 was characterized by the reed section, the so called "four brothers" whose style pioneered "cool jazz" before the term was invented: three tenor saxophones (enfant prodige Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn) and a baritone saxophone (Serge Chaloff). The reed section became dominant over the brass and the rhythm section, a fact that lent the Second Herd its "modern" quality. Burns was the real genius of the orchestra, as the ambitious multi-part suites Lady McGowan's Dream (september 1946) and especially the catchy four-movement Summer Sequence (september 1946) proved. The third part of the latter, Early Autumn, was the ballad that turned Getz into a star. But this herd had fewer hits: Jimmy Giuffre's Four Brothers (december 1947), Al Cohn's The Goof and I (december 1947), Burns' Keen And Peachy (december 1947).

He continued to perform into the 1980s, chiefly to pay back taxes caused by a band manager in the 1960s. When he became ill and was forced to give up the band, the Internal Revenue Service seized his assets, including his home. While still ill, he picked the leader of the reed section, Frank Tiberi, as his successor.

Woody Herman passed away in October,1987.

Woody Herman and his Big Band doing "After You've Gone"

Reference - Woody's Biography

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