Woody Herman: Tenderly
Woody Herman and His Orchestra
The Best of Woody Herman and His Orchestra (Curb 77394)
Stan Fishelson, Al Porcino, Ernie Royal, Charlie Walp, Shorty Rogers (trumpet), Earl Swope, Ollie Wilson, Bart Varsalona (trombone), Sam Marowitz (alto sax), Gene Ammons, Buddy Savitt, Jimmy Giuffre (tenor sax), Serge Chaloff (baritone sax), Terry Gibbs (vibes), Lou Levy (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), Shelly Manne (drums). Written by Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence. Arranged by Neal Hefti.
Recorded: L.A., July 20, 1949
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
“Tenderly” is a fascinating song, originally written in three and often played in four. It has remained a standard all these years later, and has had quite a few recordings by pop and jazz artists, many of which sold in large numbers (I admit a weakness for Rosemary Clooney’s version, arranged and conducted by Percy Faith).
Sims, Getz and Cohn were gone, but Bill Harris was back, Gibbs was contributing wonderful solos, and Shelly Manne was aboard now that Stan Kenton had disbanded and was making plans to be a psychologist (!). But attendance at gigs was dwindling thanks to the infant television, and the final straw was the presence of drugs in many of the player’s systems. By November, Herman disbanded, later calling this edition of his band “an albatross.”
That didn’t mean that the quality of the music suffered. Hefti’s setting is so clever that you may not realize it is in three until it is pointed out to you, and his gift for re-harmonization and transition really shows here. Herman’s romantic alto sax reminds us of the wonderful ballad playing he was capable of, and solos by Harris and Ammons are equally lovely, as is the brief saxophones soli toward the end.
Hefti was also to change direction in a few short months. Wanting to simplify his style of music, he would create memorable melodies that Count Basie would eventually make world famous.
Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof