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Review

A popular exponent
of lively jazz

Benny Goodman, son of a Russian Jew, became renowned as the King of Swing



This is Jazz
Benny Goodman

Sony
Rs 100

The '30s were a time when jazz suffered much debasement at the hands of many popular white bandleaders. Their black counterparts struggled to make a living while keeping its soul alive. Benny Goodman, son of a Russian Jewish immigrant, squared the circle. Playing jazz with its pristine vitality and in time winning great popularity, he not only helped rescue jazz in the "age of swing", but became renowned as the King of Swing.

Having several numbers in common with an earlier Columbia anthology of Goodman's work, this album collects 11 numbers from 1937-42, when Goodman was at his most active before the semi-retirement brought on by the decline of swing and big bands. Three numbers date from the famous Carnegie Hall concert of January 1938, the first jazz performance at the hallowed venue.

Goodman had assembled several musicians from Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's orchestra in addition to his own. They offer solos from trumpets, saxophones, piano and drums apart from his own very prominent clarinet solos. Avalon, which also features a Lionel Hampton vibraphone solo, is a classic. But it is the 12-minute performance of Sing, sing, sing, with great drum solos by the extrovert Gene Krupa, that was the highlight of that concert; it starts this album with a bang.

Another classic number is the 1937 radio broadcast of King Porter stomp, dominated this time by Goodman and Krupa. Indeed, in much of the Goodman orchestra's work solos other than his own were uncommon, but two other numbers here, by his sextet, break that pattern: Flying home and Memories of you.

They both give great prominence to Charlie Christian with his electric guitar and Hampton with his vibraphone. Goodman can indeed take credit for introducing the first great guitar soloist and the first vibraphonist. While Christian tragically died young, Hampton, now 90, is alive and occasionally kicking. Flying home went down in jazz history as his theme tune.

Jazzebel


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