Thursday, September 19, 2013

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Celebrating the 100th birthday of big band jazz leader Woody Herman the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with drummer and Herman alumnus Jeff Hamilton plays eleven newly crafted arrangements of Woody's greatest hits from the 1940s and 1950s capturing the swing and excitement of the great Woody Herman Herds.”
- Graham Carter, President, JazzedMedia

“There are many reasons why Woody Herman's band was held in such high esteem. For some, the attraction was the saxophone section; for others, the many exceptional soloists; and for all fans, the incredible swinging nature of the band. Yet the canon of literature presented by Woody's band was, and continues to be, a constant source of appeal and integrity.”
- Bob Lark, Director, The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble

Earlier this year, Graham Carter, the owner and proprietor of JazzMedia, commemorated this, the 100th anniversary of the birth of clarinetist and bandleader Woody Herman, with an entertaining an informative DVDWoody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend.

To locate my earlier review of this documentary, just scroll down a bit on the sidebar [left-hand side of the facing page] or you can check it out at Graham’s website:

As though that wasn’t enough, now comes the news that Graham has commissioned a new interpretive CD of the music associated with Woody’s band.

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman [JM 1064] is set for release on October 8, 2013 and, according to Graham, it contains “… dynamic, swinging … big band performances featuring newly crafted arrangements of eleven tunes from the cannon of Herman's library of the 1940s and 1950s.” Order information will be available on Graham's website and via other retailers.

Graham’s media release goes on to say:

“Woody Herman alumnus Jeff Hamilton is the drummer and guest artist on all selections with the critically acclaimed DePaul University Jazz Ensemble. Jeff’s playing brings unparalleled life and swing to the music.

Especially notable soloists are DePaul Jazz Studies faculty members Bob Lark, Mark Colby and Thomas Matta, and Jazz Ensemble student pianist Pete Benson, alto saxophonist Corbin Andrick, trombonist Bryan Tipps, baritone saxophonist Mark Hiebert, and bassist Matt Ulery.

Fresh, beautifully crafted arrangements by DePaul students, faculty and alumni capture the spirit, swagger and brilliance of the great Woody Herman Herds.”

Bob Lark, the Director of The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, provided this background information in his insert notes to the recording:

“For this album, Jazzed Media president Graham Carter, Jeff Hamilton and myself spent several months hand-picking the tunes from the canon of literature associated with the Herman bands of the 1940s and 1950s. The DePaul Jazz Ensemble's preparation for this project included listening to recordings of Woody's bands,
with painstaking attention paid to ensemble blend, phrasing and dynamics.

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman is the product of a week-long series of rehearsals and recording sessions that took place in February of 2013. Each of our arrangements was orchestrated to accommodate the Jazz Ensemble's instrumentation of five saxophones (2 alto, 2 tenor and 1 baritone), four trombones, four trumpets, piano, guitar, bass and drums. The intention of our ensemble was not to imitate the great Herman bands, but to create interesting performances via appealing and fresh arrangements.

A well-written big band arrangement can be a catalyst for a good solo improvisation. The eleven arrangements created for this recording provide ample space for the many soloists to display their talents. These charts are rich in harmonic sophistication and rhythmic challenges, yet, they swing! The band and I find these re-settings of classic tunes from the Woody Herman library to sound fresh, interesting and exciting.

Drummer Jeff Hamilton was a key member of The Woody Herman Orchestra starting in 1977. Jeff was elated at the concept of a Woody Herman tribute CD to commemorate Woody's 100th birthday in 2013. Jeff's performance brings to this recording an excitement and muscular precision, all the while reminding us of his considerable musicianship. His drumming provides a spark to the ensemble figures performed by the brass, saxophone and rhythm sections. He sets the tone - and tempo - for this recording.”

For those of you already familiar with Woody’s music, these new interpretations will reaffirm why you became a fan of it in the first place. For those of you who are new to it, The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman is a nice place to start and just think; you get to work back through all of the original recordings of Woody’s band from the 1940’s and 50’s [not to mention those from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, as well].

Here’s a taste of what’s on hand with Thomas Matta arrangement of Sidewalks of Cuba. Thomas also takes the  bass trombone solo. The trumpet solo is by Dave Kaiser and piano solo is by Pete Benson.

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