The Woody Herman Story. Nearly one hundred tracks, documenting Herman’s First and Second Herds. This may not be Ellington or Basie, but there is still much to enjoy. The driving and sometimes goofy flag wavers (Your Father’s Mustache or Blowing Up A Storm, for example) are a slightly guilty pleasure for me; trombonist Bill Harris’s eloquence is always of interest, including his occasionally fanciful relationship with the tempered scale. The Second Herd was a bop-influenced band, and included writing by Ralph Burns and the famous Four Brothers sax section with tenors Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Stan Getz, plus Serge Chaloff on baritone. Herman’s persistence in the business was remarkable. I saw him leading a band of musicians much younger than he when I was a high school student in the ’70s.
Zemlinsky: The String Quartets. The La Salle Quartet. Alex Ross recently noted the cycle of Zemlinsky quartets programmed by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. It’s surprising these pieces are not taken up more often. While the second is a highlight, I enjoyed the third and fourth as well. Ross is right to mention the Schoenberg influence, but there are a few moments when you might think of Mahler. The album is rounded out with a real rarity, a quartet by Hans Erich Apostel, a student of Schoenberg and Berg. These are exemplary performances by a group known for its advocacy of the Second Viennese School, as well as for the fact that the Lutoslawski Quartet was written for them.