Herbie Steward: Three Horns

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Herbie Steward was a crackerjack reed player. He toured and recorded with many of the toughest big bands of the 1940s, including Artie Shaw, Alvino Rey, George Handy, Jack Teagarden, Ralph Burns and Woody Herman. Steward is probably best know for being one of the saxophones on Herman's original recording of Jimmy Giurffre's composition and arrangement of Four Brothers. He also was on Ralph Burns's Summer Sequence Part IV, which was immortalized by Getz's solo that itself became a song known as Early Autumn. The “four brothers" were Steward, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Serge Chaloff.

Throughout the 1950s, Steward recorded and toured extensively with Harry James, who by then had revamped his big band with powerhouse arrangements. When Steward recorded on small-group sessions, he was always a sideman. Even more surprising is that Steward didn't record many albums under his own name. His first leadership album was So Pretty in 1962. His second and perhaps his best was The Three Horns of Herbie Steward.

Recorded for Harry Lim's Famous Door label in March 1981, the album featured Herbie Steward on alto saxophone, clarinet and soprano saxophone. He was backed by Smith Dobson and Tee Carson on piano on different tracks, Eddie Duran (g), John Mosher (b) and Eddie Moore (d).

The tracklist included Take the “A" Train, Serenata, The Song Is you, Madeleine, Too Close for Comfort, Gone With the Wind, Body and Soul and Herb's Blues. Carson's piano can be heard on Take the “A" Train, Too Close for Comfort and Body and Soul. Steward played soprano saxophone on Too Close for Comfort, clarinet on Body and Soul and alto sax on the rest. In addition to Steward, the standout here is Duran, whose guitar was featured extensively with Vince Guaraldi and Cal Tjader.

Among Steward's best known small-group sideman dates were Buddy Childers' Sam Songs (1955), Chet Baker's The James Dean Story (1956), The Four Brothers: Together Again (1957) and The Pepper Adams Quintet (1957).

Given how great The Three Horns was in 1981, one can only imagine how amazing Steward would have sounded had he been featured extensively as a leader during the 1950s and '60s.

Herbie Steward died in 2003. JazzWax clips: You'll find the full album here in individual tracks...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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