Woody Herman – Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet


  • A stunning Hot Stamper original stereo pressing of Woody Herman’s highly regarded 1962 Philips release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • The Tubey Magical richness of some of the better Philips pressings from this era have really taken us by surprise – these are some amazingly good recordings!
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied, this is by far the best sounding Woody Herman record we have ever run acrossl
  • “Sticking exclusively to clarinet, he shows himself to be a fine improviser and an expressive player who gives fresh interpretations to a variety of standards, some closely associated with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw [whose good records we never seem to find]. …[an] out-of-print but worthy LP.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1962 All Tube Analog Philips recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

This Philips stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with this wonderful quartet, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Bass – Chuck Andrus
Clarinet – Woody Herman
Drums – Gus Johnson
Piano – Nat Pierce


Side One

Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet
Rose Room
Sweet Lorraine
Blue Moon
Begin The Beguine
Pee Wee Blues

Side Two

Don’t Be That Way
Someday Sweetheart
Mood Indigo
Summit Ridge Drive
On The Sunny Side Of The Street

AMG  Review

Herman took time off from leading his big band to participate in this unusual quartet session. Sticking exclusively to clarinet (although never on the same level as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw), he shows himself to be a fine improviser and an expressive player who gives fresh interpretations to a variety of standards, some closely associated with BG and Shaw. Nat Pierce leads the fine rhythm section on this out-of-print but worthy LP.

Leave a Reply