AFTER TOURING every now and then with Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman finally has an album to show for his efforts: "Ebony."
The title refers to Igor Stravinsky's "Ebony Concerto," which the composer wrote for the Herman band in 1945. Though not really a concerto (the clarinet is principally heard as part of the ensemble) and perhaps more reflective of Stravinsky's genius than the taste of those he wished to salute, the tricky piece is full of contrasting colors, a certain playfulness and striking, sometimes astringent harmonies. Stoltzman brings both warmth and precision to the role, but big band fans are more apt to be taken by the album's other performances.
Herman is remembered by a couple of his old chestnuts, including a robust "Apple Honey," which proves to be a splendid showcase for Stoltzman and several of his Herdmates. But also enjoyable is the lilting "Waltz for Woody," with its sumptuously-voiced clarinet trio, and the Shorty Rogers-Red Norvo tune, "Igor." (One tribute deserves another, after all.)
Other highlights include a lush and lovely arrangement of "Come Sunday" and Stoltzman's now tender, now vibrant "West Side Story" medley.
RICHARD STOLTZMAN and Woody Herman's Thundering Herd. "Ebony" (RCA 6486-1RC). Appearing Friday at the Kennedy Center.