Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend

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

Boy, I sure miss Woody Herman, no less so after viewing Graham Carter’s brilliantly conceived and executed documentary DVD - Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend.

Graham is the owner-operator of Jazzed Media through which he periodically issues CD’s by and DVD’s about Jazz musicians like composer-arranger-big band leader Bill Holman, alto saxophonists Phi Woods and Bud Shank, tenor saxophonist and big band leader Don Menza, trumpeter and big band leader Carl Saunders, vibraphonist and big band leader Terry Gibbs, and vocalists Jackie Cain and Roy Kral and Irene Kral.

You can review his catalogue as well as locate order information by visiting Graham’s website at www.jazzedmedia.com.

I have been a fan of Graham and his efforts on behalf on Jazz for many years.  I have no idea why he keeps issuing such high quality digital products devoted to Jazz subjects and personalities, but I suspect that in large measure, what he does is a labor of love as very few people have ever become wealthy due to their involvement with Jazz.

Year-after-year, Graham skillfully scripts, produces and narrates Jazz documentaries and also produces recordings of high audio quality and artistic merit.

By way of analogy, he reminds me of the developers and builders who constructed the attached homes in what is commonly referred to as “The Avenues,” the western part of San Francisco where most of the people who work in the city’s hotels, restaurants and shops live and raise their families.

After the land was purchased and the construction funds were borrowed from the bank, these homes were generally put up two at a time. When both houses were sold, the real estate developers would use the funds from the sale to start the process all over again.

These homes, which have come to be known as “railroad Victorians,” were custom-crafted in much the same way that Graham approaches his projects.

The railroad Victorians were made for working people and their families and Graham’s CD’s and DVD’s are made to honor the Jazz musicians who make the music and the fans who appreciate it. He covers his costs through his sales and uses some of his proceeds to pay for his next project.

The comprehensive scale and attention to detail that he applies to his films, in particular, makes them really deserving of a wider audience than one made up of Jazz fans alone.

Graham’s Jazz documentaries are as much social and cultural histories as they are musical tributes and they will offer a lasting legacy of knowledge and information to future generations curious about the subject of Jazz in the 20th century.

Michael Bloom, whose firm is handling the media relations for Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend, has prepared a fact sheet to accompany the DVD’s release and its details are copied below.

As usual, Michael has put together an informative synopsis that covers the significance of Woody’s career and what you can expect to see as you view the documentary DVD.

In addition to this information, I wanted to share some personal thoughts and feelings about Graham’s film.

After viewing it, my primary impression was how little I really knew about Woody Herman’s contributions to Jazz over his fifty years as a bandleader from 1936-86.

Some Jazz fans grew up with Woody’s various bands – often referred to as “Herds – I didn’t. I came in somewhere in the middle and never knew much about Woody’s origins in the business. And make no mistake about it, Woody was in the Jazz “business,” and, as Graham explains, it’s a good thing he was as a lot of young Jazz musicians got their start in the music thanks to Woody perseverance with the business side of things.

The trials and tribulations that Woody endured over the years are all portrayed in the film.

Woody’s half century in Jazz is an amazing accomplishment from a commercial standpoint, let alone an artistic one.

And while it was never easy for Woody [or anyone else, for that matter] to make a buck in the business, some of the tragic circumstances that undercut and dogged him throughout his career are no less painful to recall 25 years after his death in 1987.

Yet, Graham never makes Woody an object of sympathy.  Instead, he emphasizes a term of endearment that many used when referring to him – “Road Father.”

Graham helps us understand that what Woody endured on behalf of the many musicians who were on his bands over the years are what the patriarch of any family is traditionally expected to undertake, let alone withstand.

Woody protected his family of musicians: he provided for them, nurtured them and helped them grow and develop both as people and as artists.

One look at the following chapter sequence tells you all you need to know about the comprehensiveness of Graham’s movie.

- Opening Title – “Four Brothers”

- Road Father

- The Early Years, 1913-1935

- The Band That Plays The Blues, 1936-1943

- The First Herd, 1944-1946 – “Who Dat Up Dere?”

- The Second Herd, 1947-1949 – “I’ve Got News For You,” “Lemon Drop,” “Early Autumn”

- The Third Herd 1950-1955

- The Fourth Herd 1956-1959 – “The Preacher,” “Your Father’s Moustache”

- The Swinging Herd, 1960-1967 – “Caldonia,” “Woody’s Boogaloo”

- The Thundering Herd, 1968-1979 – “Blues in the Night”

- The Young Thundering Herd, 1980-1986

- Early Autumn, 1987

- The Chopper – The Legacy of Woody Herman

Watch them in chronological order or click on each chapter individually and you are in for a celebratory feast of music, commentary, interviews, photographs, film and TV clips including many with Woody himself modestly reflecting on some of the highlights of his career.

And although it’s main theme has to do with one of the central figures in contemporary Jazz history, Graham has put together a heartwarming and enduring story that will reach out to anyone interested in the human experience.

The technical part of the film never intrudes.

It’s a fun film to watch and is an example of the informal “art” of storytelling at its best.

Graham allows Woody’s story to unfolds at a pace that is an entertaining as it is educational.

Fortunately, Jazz has had a number of caring, conscientious and talented people “tell its story” over the years.

Thanks to his work on Woody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend, let alone the many, other projects that he has undertaken on behalf of the music, you can add Graham Carter’s name to that list of notables.

© -Michael Bloom/Media Relations, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



“In recognition of the Centennial celebration of Woody Herman's birthday in 2013, Jazzed Media will release "Woody Herman: Blue Flame", a feature length documentary film by award winning producer & director Graham Carter, produced in association with The Woody Herman Society. It provides an in-depth look at Herman's 50+-year career as a big band jazz leader and features rare film and video performances of The Woody Herman Orchestra including broadcasts from The Ed Sullivan Show and Iowa Public Television.

Woody Herman led his big band for over 50 years, starting in 1936 and all the way to his death in 1987. His story is one that parallels the changes in jazz, from the Swing Era in the 1930s through bebop and cool jazz in the 40s and 50s, and the emergence of jazz/rock fusion in the 60s and 70s (Woody returned to his straight-ahead jazz roots in the 1980s). Considered one of the greatest big band jazz leaders, Herman is fondly remembered by his fans and by the many musicians and friends associated with his various bands.

Herman was also responsible for helping bring to fame many jazz stars who got their start on his band - to name only a few: Pete Candoli, Conte Candoli, Flip Phillips, Neal Hefti, Terry Gibbs, Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Sal Nistico, Bill Chase, Frank Tiberi, Alan Broadbent, Joe Lovano, and Jeff Hamilton. Essential to the forward-thinking and always contemporary music of the Herds were some of the finest jazz composers/arrangers of the past seven decades including Ralph Burns, Neal Hefti, Shorty Rogers, Gene Roland, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Nat Pierce, John Fedchock, Gary Anderson, John Oddo, and Alan Broadbent.

DVD includes:

Documentary film includes almost 400 rare photographs and images of Woody and his various bands over a 50+-year career. Features interviews with 35 musicians and jazz historians associated with Woody Herman (including Phil Wilson, Joe Lovano, Terry Gibbs, Jeff Hamilton, Sonny Igoe, Frank Tiberi, Dr. Herb Wong, Dan Morgenstern, and Bill Clancy) and extensive filmed interviews with Woody. Film and video performances of the Woody Herman Orchestra are also featured. DVD Total Viewing Time: 110: 00.

Jazzed Media: Dedicated to releasing new and previously unreleased jazz media of the highest possible musical integrity and production standards.

Jazzed Media, a jazz record label and film production company, was founded in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area in 2002. Jazzed Media's owner Graham Carter is a multi-Grammy nominated record producer (The Bill Holman Band "Live" and The Bill Holman Band "Hommage") and award winning jazz filmmaker (Phil Woods: A Life in E Flat, Bud Shank: Against the Tide, and Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm). Jazzed Media owner Graham Carter has recently produced & directed a documentary film on big band jazz legend Woody Herman titled Woody Herman: Blue Flame.

Jazzed Media offers both newly recorded jazz sessions and historic recorded jazz not available previously. Newly recorded jazz offerings are performed by the world's greatest jazz musicians coupled with state of the art recording facilities. Historic jazz recordings are thoroughly restored to the best sonic condition via computer software programs and dedicated engineering talent. Extensive liner notes and photographs are utilized whenever possible to increase the musical listening experience. A recent

Jazzed Media CD release, Lorraine Feather's Ages, received a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Jazzed Media also produces and distributes jazz documentaries utilizing leading edge production techniques and extensive interview segments of jazz greats.

Filmmaker Graham Carter has received the following awards for films released through Jazzed Media:

Phil Woods: A Life in E Flat- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2005 Telly Awards - Silver 2005 Videographer Awards - Award of Excellence
Bud Shank: Against the Tide- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2009 EMPixx Awards - Gold Award
2008 Aurora Awards - Gold
2008 Telly Awards - Bronze
2008 Videographer Awards - Award of Distinction
Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm- Portrait of a Jazz Legend
2011 Telly Awards - Bronze
2011 Videographer Awards - Award of Excellence
2011 EMPixx Awards - Platinum Award: Documentary
2011 EMPixx Awards - Platinum Award: Use of Music