Woody Herman: Blue Flame-Portrait of a Jazz Legend

Woody Herman would have been 100 years old if he had made it to the year 2013; unfortunately, the heart that he gave to his musicians, his wife and his fans gave out a few decades before that. This wonderful documentary gives an excellent perspective of the bandleader and musician who kept a big band together for over 50 years, a feat that stands up there with balancing the US budget.

Producer and director Graham Carter takes you chronologically through each of Woody Herman’s bands, with interviews  with and insights provided by musicians and journalists like (just to name a few) Terry Gibbs, Frank Tiberi, Phil Wilson, Jeff Hamilton, Dan Morgenstern and Joe Lovano. The vintage footage of the various incarnations of Herds is simply thrilling. I’m sure everyone has their own favorite period, but the film of the 60s band running through a mercurial “Caldonia” makes for tough competition. All throughout, what salient point comes up is that Herman was able to change with the times because he believed in the music as well as the musicians. He let them be themselves, which always creates loyalty. Also, Herman’s old school style coming from his days in vaudeville never left him; even with the most technically and musically adroit band, he always kept the music entertaining, either with his own underrated vocals, or simply by making sure the audience was having a good time through wise cracks and gestures. Corny? Maybe, but it sure kept 16+ guys employed for half a century, and there’s no arguing about the  quality of the music.

There’s a reason jazz stars like Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, sal Nistico, Flip Phillips, Bill Chase, Alan Broadbent, Joe Lovano, the Condoli Brothers and Neal Hefti got their career starts and boosts with Mr Herman, and this nearly 2 hour dvd gives you not only tons of musical lessons, but also advice on life. A wonderful way to spend an evening!

Jazzed Media DVD


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