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Discernment. Online

Known as the "King of Swing", Goodman was the first jazz bandleader to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York
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Exciting music tells this story

This collection of songs -- from the film on Goodman and elsewhere -- can rival any other in completeness and standard

Mr Benny Goodman
The Benny Goodman Story
Rs 100

Benny Goodman, son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the US, was the first white bandleader to play uncompromising jazz instead of the effete pop stuff that other whites passed off as jazz. He was thus the first purveyor of the real thing to hit the big time and thus save jazz from obscurity on the one hand and debasement on the other.

Known as the "King of Swing" (although musicians and aficionados prefer to award that title to Count Basie, who came to wide public notice a little later), he was the first jazz bandleader to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. His line-up on the occasion included several members of Basie's and the great Duke Ellington's orchestras, including Basie himself alternating with Goodman's regular pianist.

The film of his life, The Benny Goodman Story, was a big hit. This album collects together recordings of 19 numbers that featured in it. Although Columbia (Sony) holds the rights to much of his work from the golden age of swing, EMI probably holds the rights to the film. Thus, several tracks here come from This Is Jazz and other Goodman anthologies from Sony, evidently with Sony's consent. The result is a collection that rivals any other in completeness and standard.

The two highlights are Sing, Sing, Sing (something of a theme song for Goodman) and Basie's theme song, One o'Clock Jump. The former, in a seven-minute version, features a series of several solos each by Goodman (clarinet), drums, tenor saxophone, and trumpet (Harry James), with the strong drumming right through that established the number as a flag-waver for Gene Krupa as much as for Goodman. One o'Clock Jump too became a favourite of Goodman. Its intriguing structure of a series of improvised solos, starting with piano, builds to a climax when finally the melody is introduced (as it was by Basie when he composed it impromptu)! Fittingly, the long piano solo at the outset of this shortish version sets the scene for others by tenor sax, trombone, clarinet and trumpet.

Though Goodman was notorious for hogging the limelight with his own solos, the evidence on this album shows him fairly restrained. The album cover mentions only James, the singer Martha Tilton (featured here with her famous number And the Angels Sing) and the vibraphonist Lionel Hampton besides Goodman himself. Trumpet solos abound, as do vibraphone solos (on the last six tracks, all played by a small group instead of the big band). These numbers, including the haunting Moonglow and Memories of You, also have plenty of room for piano solos (probably by Teddy Wilson).


Published on 16  February 2002

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