CD Reviews

Music on the Web (UK)

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

[ Jazz index ] [Nostalgia index]  [ Classical MusicWeb ] [ Gerard Hoffnung ]

Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Woody Herman's Finest Hour
VERVE -549 707 - 2


  1. Blue Flame
  2. Woodchopper's Ball
  3. Blues on Parade
  4. Blues in the Night
  5. Down Under
  6. Cherry
  7. I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues
  8. Blowin' Up a Storm
  9. Bijou
  10. The Good Earth
  11. Leo the Lion
  12. Early Autumn
  13. Four Others
  14. Buck Dance
  15. Caldonia
  16. Mo-Lasses
  17. Don't Get Around much Anymore

If you are to be successful with a Big Band there are some ingredients which are essential. A bunch of musicians who want to play the music of the band, arrangers who can bring the best out of those musicians, a rapport between the musician's and their leader which gives the band an identity and most of all sufficient gigs to keep the wolf from the door. Woody's bands had all these things and it was his ability as an entertainer that kept his band in the eye of the public until shortly before his death in 1987. Throughout his forty odd years as a leader, his bands constantly moved forward, each 'Herd' as they were called, being slightly better in some way than it's predecessor. The Herds also nurtured the jazz stars of the future, Flip Phillips, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Bill Perkins and Sal Nestico all occupied the one of the Tenor Sax chairs at some time. It was no different with the other instruments; to spend some time in his band was the best training anyone could get. Unlike many other leaders, Woody had a warm temperament and got his bands to play well for him because they liked him. His own playing is also worthy of mention, his Clarinet playing was very much a trade mark, but his Alto sax playing was very reminiscent of the great Ellingtonian Johnny Hodges.

This record tracks the band from 1941 to 1962 and quite a few Herman classics are included, Woodchopper's Ball was always in the library, but the arrangement constantly changed and the tempo increased greatly from the standard 'Quickstep' heard here. Whilst all the tracks have some good ensemble work and excellent soloists, the listener will notice that the bands get better end better. They continued to do so after this period. Blowin' Up a Storm, Bijou, The Good Earth, Early Autumn and Caldonia stayed in the library for many years and I personally like Buck Dance very much, it is a relatively simple, but very effective arrangement.

Overall this record is a good sample of the Herman Herds of the period and I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in the great 'Big Band' tradition.

Don Mather

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Northern Flowers
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: