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Looking for some light lounge music? Maybe a little sonic wallpaper to accompany that easy-foam latte? Well, better pull out your John Tesh collection because you sure won't find it here. But then, what would you expect from an outfit called the Swingin' (later Thundering) Herd? Veteran leader Woody Herman, who was 50 when he and his big band (which included five trumpets, four saxophones, and three trombones, in addition to the rhythm section and Herman's own clarinet) appeared on Ralph J. Gleason's Jazz Casual TV show in 1963, was surrounded by some dynamic young players, and they come out smoking--from "Molasses," the blues-drenched opener, to the full-throttle, Cuban-tinged "El Toro Grande" and straight through to the rockin' boogie that completes "That's Where It Is," the last of four featured performances (the fourth is the ballad "Lonesome Old Town"). The soloists (principally tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico, trumpeter Bill Chase, trombonist Phil Wilson, pianist Nat Pierce, and drummer Jake Hanna) all acquit themselves well, Nistico especially. But the main attraction here is the big, tight, swinging, witty, joyous sound of the Herd. Asked by Gleason if he thinks big bands are coming back, Herman candidly says no. So why did he continue to tour with an outfit this size long after the heyday of the Swing Era? "Force of habit," Herman replies simply. Good thing for us it's a habit he never managed to break. --Sam Graham
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