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Benny Goodman: The Swing Master

Jack Bowers By

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Benny Goodman, a complex man who was loved by many, disliked by others and always in command, kept his music refreshingly vibrant and honest, as befit the Swing Era’s renowned King of Swing. Benny’s groups, whether large or small, were always sharp and well-rehearsed; he wouldn’t have it any other way. A life-long perfectionist, Goodman demanded the same from those with whom he played, and surrounded himself with musicians of the highest caliber. Many of them can be heard on this anthology that surveys the period from 1939-51 (with time out for the war years from December ’41 to August ’45) via fourteen orchestral selections, seven by Goodman’s sextets and two others by his septet.

Among the well-known players whose names appear in Benny’s sextet are vibists Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo and Terry Gibbs; pianists Teddy Wilson and Mel Powell, bassists Red Callender and Slam Stewart, guitarists Charlie Christian and Johnny Smith, and drummer Nick Fatool, while the septet boasts Christian, trumpeter Cootie Williams, tenor Georgie Auld and no less than Count Basie at the keyboard. The orchestras were far from shabby either, with Williams, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Billy Butterfield, Jimmy Maxwell, Bernie Privin and Doug Mettome numbered among the trumpeters; Jerry Jerome, Toots Mondello, Vido Musso, Hymie Schertzer, Danny Bank, Wardell Gray, Al Klink, Peanuts Hucko and Boomie Richman in the various reed sections; Vernon Brown, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Trummy Young, Chauncey Welsch, Billy Byers and Will Bradley lending a hand on trombone, and rhythm sections that housed such standouts as Norvo; pianists Powell, Jess Stacy, Buddy Greco and Stan Freeman; bassists Stewart and Bob Haggart, and drummers Fatool, Sid Catlett, Louie Bellson and Sonny Igoe. Of course, sidemen of their stature needed wonderful music to play, and Goodman saw to that by employing some of the most talented swing arrangers of the day including Powell, Edgar Sampson, Deane Kincaide, Benny Carter, Eddie Sauter and the Hendersons, Fletcher (who arranged the last four selections for the orchestra) and Horace. Their collaborative efforts produced danceable music that always swings, as was Benny’s purpose. As I suspect that none of this material will be new to Goodman’s legions of admirers, the album is probably aimed toward those who either haven’t heard it before or would like to trade in their 78 rpm prototypes for these digitally remastered versions, cleanly transferred from the vinyl by Ted Kendall. Thus the monarchy survives; long live the King (of Swing)!

Contact: Memoir Records Ltd., P.O. Box 66, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 25A, United Kingdom. Web site: www.memoir.demon.co.uk .


Track Listing: Stealin

Personnel: Benny Goodman, clarinet, leader, with various large and small groups, August 1939

Title: The Swing Master | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Memoir


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