The bulk of Shaw's great sessions were recorded for independent labels (Muse & Contemporary,) ensuring them widespread critical evaluation but little audience except with the hardcore faithful. Things seemed about to change in the late '70s when Miles Davis suggested to Columbia that they record Shaw's group. They actually took his suggestion and signed Shaw. He issued a string of remarkable but low-selling records, and Columbia cut him loose after four years and four albums. They compounded the crime by deleting the records shortly after Shaw departed. Mosaic has corrected that slight with another of their marvelously produced and comprehensively notated and packaged box sets. This three-disc collection covers Shaw's Columbia sessions. While it is sad that Shaw's stay at Columbia was not more personally beneficial, it was quite musically productive.
Woody Herman had a breakthrough during the period of time covered by Classics' third Herman CD. The Apr. 12, 1939, session yielded "Woodchopper's Ball," Herman's first hit, and it also featured "Dallas Blues," "Blues Downstairs," and "Blues Upstairs." From then on, Herman's first group would be known as "The Band That Plays the Blues." Other highlights of this enjoyable CD include four titles featuring singer Connie Boswell, the Andrews Sisters guesting on "Begin the Beguine," some vocals by Mary Ann McCall, and the tracks "The Sheik of Araby" and "Farewell Blues." Despite the lack of any major soloists (beyond the leader), things were definitely looking up by August 1939 for Herman.
Master of the Art is the studio companion to the album Night Music, also reissued on Wounded Bird records from the original Elektra Musician masters, with the same band as on the live date, but with completely different songs and a short interview from the trumpeter. At a time when Shaw was one of the most consistently brilliant trumpeter's of the modern era, this effort did nothing to hurt that estimable reputation. Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and trombonist Steve Turre being on the front line made for an arresting sound, while the emerging pianist Mulgrew Miller was asserting himself as a major force, with drummer Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus sounding like they had worked together for decades. The four tracks include here are quite lengthy, allowing for stretched melody lines and beefy solos, showing the inventiveness and stamina of this mighty sextet.
WOODY HERMAN The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Woody Herman And His Orchestra & Woodchoppers (Extremely rare & limited 2004 US 141-track Mosaic audiophile 7-CD box set, including many alternate and unissued takes, entirely comprehensive of Woody's fabulous output for Columbia. Housed in a beautifully presented textured outer black box with front pasted picture cover, complete with four credit/tracklisting picture booklets plus an informative 32-page LP sized booklet, featuring stunning black & white session photographs and extensive liner notes. Woody Herman’s bands had it all in the years documented here: hit vocal tunes, top-rated national radio show, star instrumental soloists, new instrumental sounds hailed by jazz critics and fans alike, adventurous arrangements, female singers with sex appeal and a level of musicianship marking them as among the best large ensembles in jazz history.