Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Woody Herman Big New Herd at The 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival

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

Writing in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Barry Kernfeld, ed., Sarah Velez and Paul M. Laird offer this overview of The Monterey Jazz Festival.

“The Monterey Jazz Festival. Festival is held annually from 1958 near Monterey, California. It was founded by Ralph J. Gleason and the disc jockey Jimmy Lyons, partly at the suggestion of George Wein and Louis Lorillard (the founders of the Newport Jazz Festival). Gleason was an adviser to the festival's organizers during its early years and Lyons was its general manager into the 1980s; among its music directors have been John Lewis and Mundell Lowe. The festival takes place over three days in September (including the third weekend of the month) at three venues on the Monterey County Fairgrounds (seating 7000) and usually offers performances by well-known swing and bop musicians; Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk appeared regularly, as have Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Dave Brubeck. A blues concert has also been included in most years.

Proceeds from the festival have been used for educational purposes, including the awarding of grants and scholarships (from 1961) and the administration of the Annual California High School Jazz Competition (from 1971), the winners of which perform on the last day of the festival with its featured performers. The Monterey Jazz Festival was acclaimed during its early years for its innovative programming; in 1959, for example, it included the premieres of works by Jimmy Giuffre, John Lewis, and Gunther Schuller (all performed by an ensemble directed by Schuller) and performances by an all-star band assembled for the occasion by Woody Herman. Later, however, it drew criticism for its indifference towards free jazz and other modern styles.

The tape archive of the festival is held by the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford University.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Woody Herman All-Star big band appearance at the MJF and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to look back on the event with these insert notes by Ralph Gleason from Woody Herman’s Big New Herd at the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival [Atlantic LP 1328/Koch CD KOCCD-8508].

“One of the most impressive things about the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival (which was in itself a pretty impressive affair, as witness the reviews) was the Festival orchestra put together especially to function as a workshop orchestra during the week preceding the Festival and, during the actual three days of the Festival, to double as the Woody Herman Festival Herd and the workshop band (augmented by various soloists and members of the San Francisco Symphony).

It was a long, hard week of work for the musicians. Rehearsals morning, noon and  night; literally. And when the first evening concert -Friday -began with the Chris Barber band and Ottilie Patterson singng the blues, the latecomers walking down to the Festival arena passed by the rehearsal hall and heard the Woody Herman Festival Herd wailing away through the numbers heard on this album. They had volunteered an extra rehearsal “for Woody.”

On Saturday afternoon the Herman band played under the blazing Monterey sun, interrupted occasionally by the roar of a low-flying civilian plane (the Air Force and the Navy gallantly re-routed their fliers but nobody could control the casual civilian). "I'm beginning to hate him," Woody Herman remarked as the particularly annoying small plane flew over for the umpteenth time during fits set.
Part of the program on Saturday afternoon and again on Saturday evening consisted of a set by the Herman Herd ("I wish I could take this band on the road!"

Part of the program on Saturday afternoon and again on Saturday evening consisted of a set by the Herman Herd (“I wish I could take this band on the road,” Woody said, and everyone agreed it was one of the greatest bands Woody had ever stood before). It was recorded by Atlantic, both afternoon and evening, when the Monterey sun was replaced by the cold, foggy breeze from the Pacific and the spectators, who that afternoon were wearing Bavarian shorts and sunglasses, were wrapped in blankets, ski boots and wool caps.

Saturday night the Lambert-Hendricks-Ross Trio sang out an introduction for the Herman band. Woody turned around to the 19 men and yelled, "BOW! BOW! BOW! BOW!" and they roared into Four Brothers.  It was the classic Herman chart written by Jimmy Giuffre for the legendary Second Herd (the one with Stan and Zoot and Serge and Herbie Steward). It’s been in the books over ten years, played practically every night “The sheets are all dog-eared,” [drummer] Mel Lewis noted. But oddly enough this is only the second time Herman has recorded it.  The solos this time (first time around) are by Zoot Sims, Med Flory (baritone), Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca, Then at the end, it's Perkins, Zoot Richie and Med . They follow the short Woody Herman bit (“After all he is our dad our dad,” Jon Hendricks wrote).

Like Some Blues Man is from the afternoon session. You'll hear Woody’s high-flying friend roaring around upstairs. "He'll be gone in a minute," Woody hopefully remarked. He wasn't Vic Feldman starts this one with a vibes solo, you hear some delightful Conte Candoli trumpet, a Bill Perkins tenor solo, Urbie Green on trombone and Charlie Byrd on guitar (he was one of the hits of the Festival) and at the end the airplane buzzes the band again! The tune was written and arranged by Ted Richards whose work shows unmistakable evidence of his close collaboration in the past with Gene Roland.

Skoobeedoobee (“from the picture 'Sal Mineo in Purgatory.’” Woody introduced it) is also from the afternoon session and has Vic Feldman on piano. Vic almost didn't get to play at all at Monterey, At the opening rehearsal he stepped forward to speak to Woody and slipped and fell off the bandstand and hurt his knee. Not too seriously, luckily. Zoot Sims and Urbie Green - and Woody too - have solo spots and I am particularly fond of the explosions by Mel Lewis at the end. Mel, incidentally, never worked with Woody before “although I always wanted to,” he says. Most of the others had, and Conte Candoli, Urbie, Richie, Zoot, Perk and Med Flory especially were veterans of other Herman bands. Don Lanphere and Bill Chase were from Woody's most recent band. This is another Ted Richards opus.

Monterey Apple Tree got a beautifully "in" introduction by Woody. "If s a very old tune of ours," he said, "and this year we're changing the title because I feel it's only fair to the fellas that are going to play it and also the listeners  - this year we're gonna call it Monterey Apple Tree." Almost everybody gets into the act on this one and towards the end there's a fine exchange of statements between tenor Don Lanphere and baritone Med Rory.

Skylark, an arrangement by Ralph Burns, is a vehicle fertile lyric trombone of Urbie Green and Urbie is also featured on Magpie which closes the LP. This was written by Joseph Mark a cousin of [tenor saxophonist] Al Cohn who contributed so many compositions to tie Herman book over the years.

These were exciting sessions and we're lucky they came out so wall on tape and could be preserved for our enjoyment. Recording outdoors is hazardous, but this LP is one of the more successful of this sort of thing, in my opinion. It's hard to separate the memories and listen objectively to the music in a situation like this,
Monterey 1959 was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life and, it would seem, that of a lot of other people.  Musicians to J.J, Johnson, Mel Lewis and Woody Herman apparently feel the same way (“I’ll be back even if I'm not working on it,” Mel says.)

The reviews were almost unanimous in praise. "This one's for jazz,”' Down Beat's Gene Lees said and added, "Monterey.. .made previous jazz festivals look like grab bags, musical potpourris that do not compare with the smoothly purposeful and thought-provoking Monterey Festival." Annie Ross commented, "It's actually inspiring to get out here and find people working like this.”' After reading off list of things to be corrected next year musical consultant John Lewis said, "It's only the best Festival ever!" Gunther Schuller wrote, “The musicians are both pleased and surprised. They are treated with respect warmth and even reverence.”  All of this colors my listening to this LP, I frankly admit.'

Monterey was a gas for musicians and fans alike. That it was, is a tribute to the planning of Jimmy Lyons, the founder and moving force behind the Festival, and John Lewis who served (without fee, incidentally) as musical consultant.

As for me, I was grateful to them then for the exhilarating program, I'm grateful now that Atlantic has preserved this portion of it for our future pleasure. If it gives you one tenth the pleasure it has already given me, it will be a success.”

The band personnel on Woody Herman’s Big New Herd at the Monterey Jazz festival are -

Woody Herman, clarinet and alto sax
Trumpets: Al Porcino, Conte Candoli, Ray Linn, Frank Huggins and Bill Chase
Trombones: Urbie Green, Sy Zentner and Bill Smiley
Alto Sax: Don Lamphere [who also plays tenor on Monterey Apple Honey]
Tenor saxes: Zoot Sims, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca
Guitar: Charlie Byrd
Piano and Vibraphone: Victor Feldman
Bass: Monty Budwig
Drums: Mel Lewis

I think it would be safe to say that Woody Herman had one of the earliest big bands to play Bebop.

It would also be safe to say that no one ever had a better one.

1 comment:

  1. I bought this album as a teenager when it first came out in 1960. I am still listening to it and it sounds even better to me now than it did then. I think that this is one of the greatest bands ever. We can be grateful to Woody Herman for assembling such a fabulous array of musicians to play beautiful arrangements. I especially like Urbie Green's "Skylark," which for me is the definitive version of this beautiful song. And of course "Four Brothers" swings like mad--the classic composition for four saxes. Since this is a live recording, we get to feel the energy of the band in front of an enthusiastic audience. The whole album Is a gem.


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