“Let It Snow”
Composed by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne; arranged by Neal Hefti.
Recorded by Woody Herman and His Orchestra for Columbia on December 10, 1945 in New York City.
Woody Herman, vocal, directing: Walter J. “Pete” Candoli, first trumpet; Irving Lewis, Milton M. “Shorty” Rogers, Saul “Sonny” Berman, trumpets; Bill Harris, Ed Kiefer. Ralph Pfeffner, trombones; Sam Marowitz, first alto saxophone; John La Porta, alto saxophone; Joseph E. “Flip” Phillips and Mickey Folus, tenor saxophones; Sam Rubinwitch, baritone saxophone; Tony Aless, piano; Billy Bauer, guitar; Grieg S. “Chubby” Jackson, bass; Don Lamond, drums.
The wonderful holiday season song “Let It Snow” was an early collaboration of what would become a celebrated song writing team, that of Sammy Cahn, who wrote the lyric, and Jule Styne, who wrote the music. Woody Herman’s recording, made at the end of 1945 for Columbia, was actually a cover of the hit version recorded by vocalist Vaughn Monroe for RCA Victor earlier that year. The Herman version also became a hit.
The Woody Herman band of 1945 was one of the last great bands to achieve widespread success during the swing era. This band, which included such strong soloists as trumpeter Sonny Berman and trombonist Bill Harris, both heard here, and tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, along with a strong rhythm section led by bassist Chubby Jackson, made many recordings that are considered classics of the swing genre.
Although Woody Herman was a capable alto saxophone and clarinet soloist, he never occupied the vaunted position of virtuoso on either of those instruments. Throughout most of his career as a bandleader, which stretched from the mid-1930s well into the 1980s, Herman played those instruments sparingly, choosing instead to feature the many talented jazz soloists he always had in his various bands. But Woody always sang, and he was a fine singer, as his performance here demonstrates.
In 1945, the Herman band was beginning to incorporate elements of bebop into their music. A prime mover in this was the young (age 23) trumpeter/arranger Neal Hefti. Among the composition/arrangements he wrote for that band that show the influence of bop are classics of the Herman repertoire: “Wild Root,” “The Good Earth,” “Apple Honey,” “Blowin’ Up a Storm,” and “Caledonia.” (Neal Hefti at right.) Hefti went on to a successful career after leaving the Herman band in 1946. He was a very important contributor to the music of the Count Basie band of the 1950s. “Lil Darling,” “Splanky,” “Flight of the Foo Birds,” and “Teddy the Toad” are among the originals he wrote for the Basie band then. Hefti moved on to a very successful career in films (Batman) and television (The Odd Couple) in the 1960s.
The arresting introduction/fanfare to Neal Hefti’s arrangement of “Let It Snow” has always reminded me of someone flexing his muscles before beginning an athletic event. Those flexing their muscles were the Herman band and young Mr. Hefti, who was in the first bloom of his success as a writer of startlingly brilliant music. As the performance moves into the first chorus of the tune, Woody sings with ease and warmth, qualities that were also a part of his personality. Trumpeter Sonny Berman (pictured below right) takes a bright, swinging solo after the vocal, and then trombonist Bill Harris (shown below left) solos throughout the marvelous modulation, and after it. Woody returns to sing for a few bars after these solos, and then we hear a reprise of Hefti’s powerful introduction to close this marvelously happy performance.
This recording, and many others made by Woody Herman while he was contracted to Columbia Records (as well as those made by many other Columbia artists), was made at Liederkranz Hall in Manhattan. Liederkranz Hall was located at 111-119 East 58th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, and was built in 1881. The Liederkranz of the City of New York was located in Liederkranz Hall for many years. At some point early in the twentieth century, commercial recordings also began to be made there, first by Victor, and later (starting around 1940) by Columbia. The auditorium at Liederkranz Hall was known for its excellent acoustic properties, which are apparent in this recording of “Let It Snow.” The word liederkranz in German means “wreath of songs,” and has been used by many German cultural and singing clubs in America.
This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Here are links to a number of other great performances by Woody Herman here at swingandbeyond.com:
And here is a link to a great composition/arrangement by one of Woody’s most illustrious alumni, Ralph Burns: