Woodrow Charles Herman (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987), known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd," Herman was one of the most popular of the 1930s and '40s bandleaders. His bands often played music that was experimental for their time.
Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 16, 1913. His parents were Otto and Myrtle Herrman. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced Woody Herman at an early age. As a child he worked as a singer in vaudeville, then became a professional saxophone player at age 15. In 1931, he met Charlotte Neste, an aspiring actress. They later married, September 27, 1936. Woody Herman joined the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were "Lonesome Me" and "My Heart's At Ease". Herman also performed with the Harry Sosnick orchestra and Gus Arnheim and Isham Jones. Isham Jones wrote many popular songs, including "It Had To Be You" and at some point was tiring of the demands of leading a band. Jones wanted to live off the residuals of his songs. Woody Herman saw the chance to lead Isham Jones' former band. Woody Herman eventually acquired the remains of Jones' orchestra after Isham Jones decided to retire.
Woody Herman's first band became known for its orchestrations of the blues and was sometimes billed as "The Band That Plays The Blues". This band recorded for the Decca label. At first the band served as a cover band, doing covers of songs by other Decca artists. The first song recorded was "Wintertime Blues" on November 6, 1936. In January 1937, George T. Simon closed a review of the band with the words: "This Herman outfit bears watching; not only because it's fun listening to in its present stages, but also because its bound to reach even greater stages. After two and a half years on the label, the band had its first hit, "Woodchopper's Ball" recorded in 1939. Woody Herman remembered that "Woodchopper's Ball" started out slowly at first. "[I]t was really a sleeper. But Decca kept re-releasing it, and over a period of three or four years it became a hit. Eventually it sold more than five million copies--the biggest hit I ever had. Other hits for the band include "The Golden Wedding" and "Blue Prelude".Musicians and arrangers that stand out include Cappy Lewis on trumpet and Dean Kincaide, a noted big band arranger.
In jazz, swing was gradually being replaced by bebop. Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter and one of the originators of bop, wrote three arrangements for Woody Herman, "Woody'n You", "Swing Shift" and "Down Under". These were arranged in 1942. "Woody'n You" was not used at the time. "Down Under" was recorded November 8, 1943. The fact that Herman commissioned Dizzy Gillespie to write arrangements for the band and that Herman hired Ralph Burns as a staff arranger, heralded a change in the style of music the band was playing.
In February 1945, the band started a contract with Columbia records. Herman liked what drew many artists to Columbia, Liederkrantz Hall, at the time the best recording venue in New York City.
The first side Herman recorded was "Laura", the theme song of the 1944 movie of the same name. Herman's version was so successful that it made Columbia hold from release the arrangement that Harry James recorded days earlier. The Columbia contract coincided with a change in the band's repertoire. The First Herd's music was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Its lively, swinging arrangements, combining bop themes with swing rhythm parts, were greatly admired. As of February, 1945 the personnel included Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli, Billy Bauer (later replaced by Chuck Wayne), Ralph Burns, Davey Tough and Flip Phillips. On February 26, 1945 in New York City, the Woody Herman band recorded "Caldonia".
Neal Hefti and Ralph Burns collaborated on the arrangement of "Caldonia" that the Herman band used. "Ralph caught Louis Jordan [singing "Caldonia"] in an act and wrote the opening twelve bars and the eight bar tag. But the most amazing thing on the record was a soaring eight bar passage by trumpets near the end." These eight measures have wrongly been attributed to a Dizzy Gillespie solo, but were in fact originally written by Neal Hefti. George T. Simon compares Neal Hefti with Dizzy Gillespie in a 1944 review for Metronome magazine saying, "Like Dizzy [...], Hefti has an abundance of good ideas, with which he has aided Ralph Burns immensely [...][.]"
In 1946 the band won Down Beat, Metronome, Billboard and Esquire polls for best band, nominated by their peers in the big band business. Along with the high acclaim for their jazz and blues performances, classical composer Igor Stravinsky wrote the Ebony Concerto, one in a series of compositions commissioned by Woody with solo clarinet, for this band. Woody Herman recorded this work in the Belock Recording Studio at Bayside New York.
Throughout the history of jazz, there have always been musicians who sought to combine it with classical music. Ebony Concerto is one in a long line of music from the twenties to the present day that seeks to do this. Woody Herman said about the Concerto: "[The Ebony Concerto is a] very delicate and a very sad piece."Stravinsky felt that the jazz musicians would have a hard time with the various time signatures. Saxophonist Flip Philips said, "During the rehearsal [...] there was a passage I had to play there and I was playing it soft, and Stravinsky said 'Play it, here I am!' and I blew it louder and he threw me a kiss!" In his own original way Stravinsky noticed the massive amount of smoking at the recording session: "the atmosphere looked like Pernod clouded by water." Ebony Concerto was performed live by the Herman band on March 25, 1946 at Carnegie Hall.
Despite the Carnegie Hall success and other triumphs, Herman was forced to disband the orchestra in 1946 at the height of its success. This was his only financially successful band; he left it to spend more time with his wife and family. During this time, he and his family had just moved into the former Hollywood home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. One reason Herman may have disbanded was his wife Charlotte's growing problems with alcoholism and pill addiction. Charlotte Herman joined Alcoholics Anonymous and gave up everything she was addicted to. Woody said, laughing, "I went to an AA meeting with Charlotte and my old band was sitting there." Many critics cite December 1946 as the actual date the big-band era ended, when seven other bands, in addition to Herman's, dissolved.
In 1947, Herman organized the Second Herd. This band was also known as "The Four Brothers Band". This derives from the song recorded December 27, 1947 for Columbia records, "Four Brothers", written by Jimmy Giuffre. "The 'Four Brothers' chart is based on the chord changes of 'Jeepers Creepers', and features the three-tenor, one-baritone saxophone section[...]." The order of the saxophone solos is Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward, and Stan Getz. Some of the notable musicians of this band were also Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, Lou Levy, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs, and Shelly Manne. Among this band's hits were "Early Autumn," and "The Goof and I". The band was popular enough that they went to Hollywood in the mid-nineteen forties. Herman and his band appear in the movie New Orleans in 1947 with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. From the late 1940s to the end of his life, record labels Herman recorded for include RCA, Capitol,MGM and Verve.
Herman's other bands include the Third Herd (1950–1956) and various editions of the New Thundering Herd (1959–1987). In the 1950s, the Third Herd went on a successful European tour. He was known for hiring the best young musicians and using their arrangements. By 1968, the Herman library came to be heavily influenced by rock and roll. He was also known to feature brass and woodwind instruments not traditionally associated with jazz, such as the bassoon, oboe or French horn.
In 1974, Woody Herman's "Young Thundering Herd" appeared without their leader for Frank Sinatra's television special The Main Event and subsequent album, The Main Event – Live. Both were recorded mainly on October 13, 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. On November 20, 1976, a reconstituted Woody Herman band played at Carnegie Hall in New York City, celebrating Herman's fortieth anniversary as a bandleader. By the 1980s, Herman had returned to straight-ahead jazz, dropping some of the newer rock and fusion approaches. Woody Herman signed a recording contract with Concord Records around 1980, now called the Concord Music Group.
In 1981, John S. Wilson warmly reviewed one of Herman's first Concord recordings "Woody Herman Presents a Concord Jam, Vol. I". Wilson's review says that the recording presents a band that is less frenetic than his bands from the forties to the seventies. Instead it takes the listener back to the relaxed style of Herman's first band of the thirties that recorded for Decca.
Herman continued to perform into the 1980s, after the death of his wife and with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes caused by his business manager's bookkeeping in the 1960s. With the added stress, Herman still kept performing. In a December 5, 1985 review of the band at the Blue Note jazz club for The New York Times, John S. Wilson pointed out: "In a one-hour set, Mr. Herman is able to show off his latest batch of young stars — the baritone saxophonist Mike Brignola, the bassist Bill Moring, the pianist Brad Williams, the trumpeter Ron Stout — and to remind listeners that one of his own basic charms is the dry humor with which he shouts the blues." Wilson also spoke about arrangements by Bill Holman and John Fedchock for special attention. Wilson spoke of the continuing influence of Duke Ellington on the Woody Herman bands from the nineteen forties to the nineteen eighties. Before Woody Herman died in 1987 he delegated most of his duties to leader of the reed section, Frank Tiberi. Tiberi leads the current version of the Woody Herman orchestra. Frank Tiberi said at the time of Herman's death that he would not change the band's repertoire or library. Woody Herman was buried in a Catholic funeral, November 2, 1987 in West Hollywood, California.
Woody Herman, de nacimiento Woodrow Charles Herman ( 16 de mayo, 1913, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 29 de octubre, 1987, Los Ángeles, California) fue un saxofonista, clarinetista, cantante y líder de big bands de jazz estadounidense.
A los quince años, Woody Herman comienza a trabajar con la banda de Myron Stewart y, poco después, con la de Joe Lichter , con quien realiza su primera gira por Texas , en 1928. A lo largo de los cinco años siguientes, Herman tocará con Tom Gerum (1929-1933) , Harry Sosnick (1933), Gus Arnheim, Joe Moss y, en 1934, Isham Jones.
En 1936, la banda de Jones se convierte en una cooperativa de cinco músicos, conocida como The Band That Plays the Blues , asumiendo Herman el papel de líder. La banda tuvo su primer gran éxito, dentro de una línea ascendente, en 1939, con el riff melodioso de Woodchopper's Ball.
A partir de este momento, dentro de una dinámica de abundantes cambios de personal, los Herds de Woody Herman (como solía llamar a sus sucesivas Big Bands) gozaron de una notable popularidad
Entre 1940 y 1946,
Woody Herman mantiene la primera de las versiones de sus Herds, en la que militaron músicos como Sonny Berman, Flip Phillips, Pete Candoli, Ralph Burns, Chubby Jackson, Shorty Rogers... Es en esta época cuando Stravinsky escribe, especialmente para la banda, su Concierto de ébano, obra que se estrenó en marzo de 1946, en el Carnegie Hall de Nueva York. Solo unos meses más tarde, Herman disuelve su banda.
Dentro de la era del swing, la banda de Herman era característica, por su sonido novedoso, respetuoso con la tradición swing, pero receptivo con las innovaciones del bebop. Esta especial manera de entender el papel de una big band, fue decisivo en el desarrollo del West coast jazz.
Paralelamente, Herman mantuvo un pequeño grupo, extraído de su Herd, autodenominado The Woodchoppers, que desarrolló de forma aún más clara sus conceptos pre-bop, con arreglos de Rogers y del vibrafonista Red Norvo.
La segunda edición de los Herds, inicia su andadura en 1947. Será, con diferencia, el más popular de sus combos, con la inclusión, en la cuerda de saxofones de los Four Brothers,2 nombre adoptado de un tema del saxofonista Jimmy Giuffre.
Los Four Brothers, inicialmente, fueron Stan Getz , Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward y Serge Chaloff. Más tarde Al Cohn sustituyó a Steward. La principal innovación técnica que ofreció esta sección de saxos, fue la de contar con tres tenores (todos ellos de una sonoridad similar, claramente influenciada por Lester Young) y un barítono, con un alto añadido, lo que era bastante inusual en la época.3 El planteamiento de origen, con cuatro tenores, ya había sido ensayado por Herman en su First Herd, a comienzos de 1946, con una cuerda formada por Al Cohn, Joe Magro, Stan Getz y Louis Ott. Su arreglista de entonces, Gene Roland, volvió a ensayar esta sonoridad en la Costa Oeste, el verano siguiente, con Getz, Giuffre, Steward y Sims.4 El concepto se mantuvo en los arreglos de las sucesivas bandas de Herman, de forma que la propia banda fue conocida durante un tiempo como The Four Brothers Band.5
Las dificultades económicas que se vivieron en 1949, le obligaron a disolver la orquesta y mantener, solamente, un pequeño combo.
En 1950, vuelve a reunir a sus Herds, con los que realiza una gira por Europa (1954). Ralph Burns escribió un book (es decir, un gran número de arreglos) para ellos basados en el peculiar sonido Four Brothers, en cierta forma más auténtico que el de la versión original, puesto que en el Second Herd siempre hubo un saxo alto adicional, y en la nueva versión sólo permanecieron tenores y barítono.6 Ya no estaban los originales, pero siempre contó con magníficos tenores: Gene Ammons, Jimmy Giuffre, Richie Kamuca, Bill Perkins, etc. La banda se mantiene hasta 1959, aunque pasará más inadvertida que las anteriores ediciones, sin que ello suponga una merma en los valores de su música.
A partir de 1960, Herman cambia sus esquemas de funcionamiento, como forma de ajustarse a las exigencias económicas de la época, y sus nuevas bandas van a estar formadas, básicamente, por jóvenes músicos procedentes de las orquestas universitarias. Se trata de verdaderas bandas-escuela, conocidas como Thundering Herds, adaptando además arreglos sobre temas de músicos innovadores como Chick Corea o John Coltrane, e incluso de grupos de rock, como The Doors.
De estas bandas surgieron instrumentistas muy interesantes, como los trompetistas Bill Chase (que, más tarde, fundó el grupo de jazz-rock Chase) y Forrest Buchtel, el saxo tenor Lou Marini, el saxo barítono Joe Temperley , los trombonistas Bill Walrous y Tom Malone , etc. Especialmente es necesario hacer hincapié en su arreglista durante estos años, Alan Broadbent, un neozelandés que había estudiado con Lennie Tristano.8
A finales de los años 70 , Herman acabó arruinado, en parte por las dificultades que el mercado imponía a las grandes orquestas, en parte por la falta de escrúpulos de su mánager de la época.