SNJO plays Woody Herman
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 24 Nov; Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Fri 30 Nov; RSAMD, Glasgow, Sat 1 Dec
The SNJO have already featured the music of Ellington, Basie and Goodman, so it seems only natural that Tommy Smith and his troops should now turn their attention to the other major bandleader of the golden age of jazz big bands.
Woodrow ‘Woody’ Herman (originally Herrmann) led several of the most exciting big bands in jazz history, and reached peaks of achievement in the 1940s that few have equalled. The son of German immigrants to the mid-West, he began his stage career in vaudeville as a child, but his ambition to lead his own band was fulfilled in 1936, when he took over the band led by Isham Jones.
Known as The Band that Plays the Blues (he later favoured variations on the Herman’s Herd theme), they had a massive hit in 1940 with the perennial ‘Woodchoppers Ball’, just one of the tunes that will figure in the SNJO set.
This series of performances will feature Herman staples like ‘Apple Honey’ and ‘Four Brothers’, written in 1947 for the famous saxophone section of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward (later replaced by Al Cohn) and Serge Chaloff. Their three tenors-plus-baritone sound was the distinctive signature of the Second Herd.
He continued to lead big bands almost until his death in 1987, but the Woody Herman Orchestra remains active, and last played in Scotland in 2001 under saxophonist Frank Tiberi. Tommy Smith emphasised Herman’s ability to move with the times as a key factor in his enduring music.
‘Woody Herman was one of the most talented bandleaders of the 20th century. He enjoyed success over six decades, and his ear for new talent and ability to modernise his repertoire while maintaining continuity ensured that he remained active and vital long after most of his contemporaries had hung up their batons. We are looking forward to playing this music.’