Willie Waldman & Herman Green –
Memphis, Beale Street, a bastion of blues in the heart of America. That’s where our story begins. It was the early 80’s, and at the time Willie Waldman was attending Memphis State University on a band scholarship for trumpet. Willie headed down to Beale, as was the custom for many college kids looking for kicks in those days. He came upon a club where he heard some amazing jazz music pouring out onto the street. He ditched his friends to go check it out and in his zeal for the music he jumped onstage and began blowing his horn. What he didn’t know was that this was Herman Green’s stage and he just made a cardinal sin in live music. Herman always the benevolent teacher reprimanded Waldman for joining in uninvited and gave him two options. He could start taking lessons or he could get the hell out. That was the start of a 30-year musical collaboration between Herman Green and Willie Waldman that continues to this day.
By the time Willie met Herman he had already lived many lives in the musical world. As a young man Green was first recorded with Rufus Thomas in the mid 1940’s while still in high school. The song “Hound Dog” would go on to reach number three on the charts and marked Sun Records’ first national hit. He found work playing with The Newborn Family who were the house band over at the popular Plantation Inn in West Memphis. Eventually they would become B.B. King’s backing band. After a stint honing his chops in the Special Services he was returning to Memphis in 1955. He had a long layover in San Francisco. After wandering to a nearby watering hole and hearing a three-piece combo he decided to stay. In short order Herman found himself working as the bandleader at the Black Hawk Nightclub. He would stay there for two years and during that time he had the opportunity to play with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Green met Lionel Hampton while working as a bandleader at Box City and that began his eight years playing on and off in his orchestra. During his time with Hampton, Green lived in New York City and began his own trio. After touring for several years with Hampton he returned to Memphis where he still resides today.
In 1975 he formed The Green Machine and began playing around Memphis again. It was around this time that Waldman made his leap on stage. In short order Waldman would join The Green Machine playing in Memphis five nights a week. Richard Cushing and David Skypeck were in a band called The Syncopaters with Waldman as well. One night Herman Green and William “Nokie” Taylor sat in and a spark happened. The new group originally called themselves The Herman Green & Jimmy Ellis Blues Review. After two gigs they became FreeWorld. It was here that Waldman was directly mentored by Green as he has done for countless others. Since then FreeWorld has become a Beale Street staple. FreeWorld has toured with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Cray Band, Albert King, and Joe Cocker. Green also went on to become the director of the Jazz Studies Program at LeMoyne-Owen College.
Willie Waldman played with FreeWorld from 1987 until 1991 when he followed friend and record producer Dave Aron to Los Angeles. Aron got Waldman his first gig at Deathrow Records. He would spend the next several years working as a studio musician and recording brass tracks with the likes of Snoop Dog, Tupac, and Sublime. Waldman also found work on film soundtracks for Tombstone and 101 Dalmatians. It was in 1997 that Waldman met Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction. He would eventually record with him on his solo album “Song Yet To Be Sung.” Through Farell, Waldman met Jane’s drummer Stephen Perkins. Perkins had just formed Banyan with Emit Bloch. Eventually the lineup would solidify with Perkins on drums, Waldman on trumpet, Nels Cline on guitar, and Mike Watt on bass. Cline and Watt usually only perform West Coast gigs with Banyan leaving room for friends when they tour. After co-producing Banyan’s second album “Anytime At All,” which featured everyone from Rob Wasserman to Buckethead, it was time for Waldman to strike out on his own. He formed the Willie Waldman Project, which featured a rotating cast of incredible musicians who created freeform improvisational jazz on a nightly basis.
Most recently Willie Waldman and Herman Green have reunited for a series of improvisational live music sessions. Last year they played a series of six concerts that stretched across the country. They riveted fans at the Zinc Bar in New York City playing with Nels Cline and Gent Treadly. This winter brings with it another ten dates throughout January and February with Willie and Herman hosting a whole new cast of talented musicians.
Herman Green Short Biography:
The bands Herman Green has played with started in his hometown with Rufus Thomas while Herman was in high school. Herman played on Rufus Thomas’ first recording when he was 15 years old. He helped organize BB Kings first band 2 years later. He then went to New York City and played with the best-known Jazz musicians in the world. These include John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, and many more. He also had his own group there in New York City and at age 26 in San Francisco having the house band at the Black Hawk. Included at the Black Hawk were Richard Williams-trumpet; Leo Wright-Alto Sax who also played with Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie
He went to the Armed Forces Special Services and played behind Marilyn Monroe
and Terry Moore during a USO Tour.
Mr. Green is currently the Director and Owner of Herman Green & The Green Machine, a Jazz and Blues Band and he is one of the founders of the band FreeWorld who is internationally known. He is also Head of Jazz Studies at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis TN.
He performed with the group Banyan at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City UT.
He has 3 CD’s out titled “Who Is Herman Green? His Music” and “Inspiration: Family and Friends”. All CD’s were nominated for Grammy Awards for,‘Best Album and Best Jazz Instrumental Song. His 3rd CD is title “Hernando Street Blues”.
The local chapter of NARAS has nominated Mr. Green for the following:
- 2002 Nominated for Premier Woodwind Player and Premier Music Teacher of the Year Awards and was the winner of both awards.
- 2000- Nominated for Premier Woodwind Player Award
Nominated for Woodwind Premier Player Award and winner of the Premier Music Teacher of the Year Award.
- Nominated for the Woodwind Premier Player Award, Local Chapter of NARAS
1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003 He won the award in 1991 and 1992, 1999, 2002, and 2003.