Buddy Rich: In a Zone of His Own
Carter has done his best to unearth film clips of the various Herds in action, and there are some pretty good ones, especially a driving version of "Caldonia" from the Ed Sullivan TV show in 1963 (featuring the incomparable Sal Nistico on tenor sax) but much of the "vintage wine" has either been lost or was never recorded. What little footage of the band remains is so well-worn that it has been widely shown and seen elsewhere. An exception is the concert on Iowa Public Television, which should be new even to many of Herman's fans, and on which the band plays not only "Four Brothers" but "Early Autumn" (with Frank Tiberi sitting in for Getz) and another Herman perennial, "Woodchopper's Ball." There is one more film clip of interest, "Giant Steps," recorded in 1979 in Warsaw, Poland.
In the penultimate chapter, "Early Autumn," mention is made of Herman's troubles with the IRS after his manager, Abe Turchin, failed to pay federal taxes for a number of years, leaving Herman with a $1.5 million debt. Again, Woody weathered the storm (but lost his house), and was on the road again in January 1987. His last concert as leader was given in March '87 in Grand Meadow, MN, shortly before he was hospitalized for the last time. Before leaving, he turned the reins of the Herd over to Tiberi with the wish that he should keep it going (which he has). "The Chopper" closes the documentary with observations about the Herman legacy, again from former sidemen, historians Morgenstern and Wong, and author Bill Clancy. Woody, says Gibbs, "never led a bad band . . . every one of his bands was great." "Woody," adds drummer Ronnie Zito, "had to be on the road." And he loved nothing more, adds drummer Joe LaBarbera, "than standing in front of that band." Herman loved it so much that he stood in front for more than half a century, almost to the day he died. He not only loved leading the band, he loved being a memberplaying clarinet, soprano saxophone and singing, all of which he did quite well, far better than many have given him credit for. Woody wore his heart on his sleeve; as he once said, "I get carried away by good sound." Which is one reason his bands always sounded so good. To hear how good, and to hear why those who knew Woody Herman were so charmed by his congeniality and awed by his talent, consider seeking out a copy of Blue Flame, a worthy successor to Carter's earlier narratives: Phil Woods: A Life in E Flat, Bud Shank: Against the Tide and Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm.
Steve Taylor Big Band Explosion
To Buddy Rich and Beyond . . .
This lively concert by drummer Steve Taylor's Big Band Explosion is more or less a companion piece to the band's CD, Live in London (half a dozen tunes are repeated on both discs, and the personnel is basically the same). To Buddy Rich and Beyond . . . was taped at London's Mill Hill Jazz Festival in 2009, a year before the CD was mapped out during the Ealing and London Jazz Festivals. Another thing the CD and DVD have in common is a reverberant concert-hall sound that is often short on clarity and focus. This is immediately apparent on the opening number, Sammy Nestico's sturdy "Wind Machine," and continues on through much of the concert, rendering unison passages murky and doing vocalist Josie Frater ("Too Close for Comfort," "It's Just Talk") and the brass section no favors. In other words, it sounds like a live concert, with all the warts that description implies.