This is the second of the in-depth music biographies that I've watched by Graham Carter (the other was "Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm") and I have to give Carter credit for being a "one-man band" (NO pun intended, really). He not only conducted all the interviews - and with nearly 1,000 musicians who played in one of Woody Herman's bands over 50-plus years, Carter seems to have found nearly 35 or more - and wrote the script, but he narrates it too!. And you get a lot of entertainment value on this DVD as well. With a running time of nearly two hours and a lot of complete performances (both from European TV and from a PBS station in Iowa) that are , thoughtfully, "indexed", so that you can go directly to specific performances on repeat viewings, it's a must have for big band or Herman fans. Note that it is authorized by both the Herman Estate and the Woody Herman Appreciation Society.
But I need to warn you that this is not a "slick" production. While the post-1960 performances - usually from videotape - have good video, the clips (most of the early performances - taken from feature films - are just excerpts) from the 1930s-1950s show a lot of wear and the images are fuzzy. There are certainly better copies out there but the licensing fees may have made using these cost-prohibitive. If you are used to seeing early jazz documentaries with clean prints, I'm afraid you won't find those here. I issue the warning but am still giving the DVD five stars because no one else has attempted to pay such a loving tribute to the "Head of the Herd" before and, even though Herman's career started in 1936, we are up to the 1940s in the story - and clips - in the first 11 minutes. I probably should have dropped 1/2 a star for the video quality of those early clips, but Amazon doesn't allow 1/2 stars.
Carter has also produced documentaries on on Phil Woods and Bud Shank, but I haven't seen those (yet). I'm not sure what his current project is but I for one, will certainly be looking forward to it.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.