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Swing Set

Benny Goodman: "Sing, Sing, Sing"

By Published: January 31, 2005

But there was even more trouble between the leader and his drummer. Goodman grew weary of the loud, crazy music that he was forced to play, due in large part to Krupa's showmanship. He wanted his music to be appreciated on its own terms, not because of the theatrics involved, and wanted to avoid the uproar at his concerts that often drowned out solos. Goodman also resented the fact that when kids came for autographs, they rushed past him to get to the exuberant drummer. Eventually the tension erupted into squabbling on the bandstand, and shortly after the famous Carnegie Hall concert, Krupa tore up his contract and departed to form his own group. His new band specialized in the killer-dillers that Goodman was trying to put behind him, and he recruited Mundy to provide the dynamic arrangements (Musso was also a member of the band). Their debut in Atlantic City was a success, as Krupa called off one bombastic number after another, but the luster began to fade. One critic commented: "'it is not difficult to get a large outfit to pound and blare'but in a short time it becomes oppressive and monotonous." Fortunately, once the fad for killer-dillers was over, Krupa found the key to success in Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge, who helped him make some excellent records in the forties. For his part, Goodman recruited Dave Tough as Krupa's replacement, a more modest, reserved man who was reluctant to take solos.

Coda

"Sing, Sing, Sing" illustrates the tension that always exists between being an artist and being an entertainer. Goodman was forced to play this tune at the conclusion of every show, yet wanted appreciation for the sophistication of his artistry. Krupa, on the other hand, preferred to feed off of the youthful exuberance of the crowd. Many sided with Goodman - Gunther Schuller in The Swing Era writes about the "horrors" of the tune and Krupa's "rigidly relentless pounding"—but there was one moment where the tune achieved a brief moment of sublime elegance. At the Carnegie Hall concert, after the usual theatrics, Jess Stacy was allowed to solo and, given the venue, what followed was appropriate. Used to just playing rhythm on the tune, he was unprepared for a turn in the spotlight, but what came out of his fingers was a graceful, impressionistic marvel with classical flourishes, yet stll managed to swing. It was the best thing he ever did, and it's ironic that such a layered, nuanced performance came at the end of such a chaotic, bombastic tune.


Sources:

Collier, James Lincoln. Benny Goodman and the Swing Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Crowther, Bruce. Gene Krupa: His Life and Times New York: Universe Books, 1987.
Firestone, Ross. Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.



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