GOODMAN, Benny: Sing, Sing, Sing (1937-1940) (Benny Goodman/ Benny Goodman Orchestra/ Benny Goodman Quartet/ Benny Goodman Sextet/ Count Basie/ Helen Forrest/ Martha Tilton/ Mildred Bailey/ Ziggy Elman) (Naxos: 8.120768)
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BENNY GOODMAN Vol.4
'Sing, Sing, Sing' Original Recordings 1937-1940
In 1935 after his totally unexpected success at LosAngeles' Palomar Ballroom, Benny Goodman wascrowned 'The King Of Swing'. The clarinettistwas not the founder of swing or even leader of thefirst swing orchestra (Fletcher Henderson hadpreceded him by more than a decade) but it washis big band that caught on big first and launchedthe swing era.
Benny Goodman was an unlikely matineeidol, being an introvert who wore glasses andwhose main concern was playing clarinet. Born30 May 1909 in Chicago, he grew up in poverty.
Goodman began playing clarinet when he waseleven and developed very quickly, winning anamateur contest with his imitation of the cornballclarinettist Ted Lewis. He joined the MusiciansUnion when he was fourteen and by that timewas working regularly in the Chicago area.
In August 1925, the sixteen-year oldGoodman joined the Ben Pollack Orchestra,becoming one of its featured stars. He made hisrecording debut with Pollack in December 1926and at that early stage was already a very fluentand impressive player, most influenced by JimmieNoone. He led his first record dates in 1928 and,after leaving Pollack in 1929, he worked with RedNichols' Five Pennies and became a very busystudio musician in New York.
By 1934, Goodman had become quite boredwith his musical life despite it being very lucrativefor that era. He longed to play jazz and lead a bigband so he took a major chance. Goodmanorganized an orchestra that passed an audition(by one vote) to become one of the three bandson the Let's Dance radio series. The radioprogrammes and record dates kept the BennyGoodman Orchestra busy until the series endedin May 1935. Faced with the certain breakup ofhis band due to lack of work, Goodman agreed togo on a cross-country tour.
The trip had its hits and misses, with BennyGoodman often drawing a respectable crowd inthe bigger cities but playing to near-empty houseselsewhere. By the time his band limped its way toCalifornia, its days seemed numbered. But afterplaying a conservative dance set at the PalomarBallroom, Goodman decided that there wasnothing to lose and he had his band cut loose.
The place exploded with excitement as dancersflooded the aisles, and the swing era was on.
From that point on, success followed success.
Benny Goodman became a household nameovernight, his orchestra was the most popular injazz for the next couple years and on 12 January1938 they became the first swing orchestra toperform a concert at Carnegie Hall.
One of the hits of that concert was firstrecorded by Goodman a few months earlier.
Sing, Sing, Sing was a simple Louis Prima songuntil it was combined with the riffs of Chu Berry's\Christopher Columbus" by arranger JimmyMundy and turned into a feature for the firstsuperstar drummer, Gene Krupa. The extendedstudio version, which also features Goodman andtrumpeter Harry James, is still a sensation.
Four of the next five songs have vocals byMartha Tilton. Although not as jazz-oriented asher predecessor Helen Ward, Tilton was acheerful presence and her attractive voice kept herpopular in her post-Goodman years. Pop-CornMan became one of the rarest of all BennyGoodman recordings when it was recalled shortlyafter its release. The reason for the recall isobscure for there was nothing wrong with thelyrics, but possibly less than a dozen copies of therecord escaped being destroyed.
When Helen Ward was in the BennyGoodman Orchestra, she recorded two titles withthe Goodman Trio. Tilton's only recording with aGoodman small group is her extended version ofBei Mir Bist Du Schon (a recent Andrews Sistershit) with the Goodman Quartet plus trumpeterZiggy Elman. Elman's trumpet solo over a Jewishfralich dance section was a hint of things to come.
Although composed by Duke Ellington,Benny Goodman had the hit version of I Let ASong Go Out Of My Heart, thanks in large partto Tilton's warm vocal. Since the clarinettist wasalways interested in playing classical music and hewould record in that setting fairly extensively laterin his life, it was only natural that he premier thenovelty Bach Goes To Town.
After the success of Bei Mir Bist Du Schon,Ziggy Elman used a variation of his trumpet soloand recorded "Fralich In Swing." In early 1939Johnny Mercer gave the song lyrics and it resultedin Martha Tilton's biggest hit, And The AngelsSing. Elman plays in a similar fashion on theobscure Who'll Buy My Bublitchki.
By the time Benny Goodman recordedStealin' Apples in mid-1939, the swing world hadchanged quite a bit. Harry James and GeneKrupa had long since departed to lead successfulbig bands of their own and Goodman, thoughstill called the 'King', was challenged in popularityby Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie and arecent upstart named Glenn Miller. Goodman,while modernizing his orchestra a bit by addingadditional brass and reeds and sometimesutilizing the arrangements of Eddie Sauter, largelystayed clear of trends and fads, going his ownway and continuing to play the swing music thathe loved.
Stealin' Apples, though composed by FatsWaller, was used by Fletcher Henderson as thetheme song for his own 1936-39 orchestra.
Henderson contributed the arrangement andplays piano on this version with Goodman.
The brightest new voice in the Goodmanmusical world in 1939 was Charlie Christian, amajor pioneer of the electric guitar whoseswinging ideas formed the basis for virtually alljazz guitar styles of the next thirty years. Christianholds his own with Goodman and LionelHampton on sextet versions of Rose Room andFlying Home, the latter heard in its earliestrecording, two years before Hampton and IllinoisJacquet made it famous.
Mildred Bailey, after the breakup of her bigband with Red Norvo, was for a short time theregular vocalist with Goodman's orchestra. She isin fine form on a straightforward version of DarnThat Dream, which is the first of severalarrangements on this set by the adventurouswriter Eddie Sauter. The catchy Zaggin' WithZig was one of Ziggy Elman's best features duringhis nearly four year period with BG. Busy As ABee was the earliest number recorded by HelenForrest with Goodman and she quickly proved tobe one of his finest singers.
Two different versions of the BennyGoodman Sextet are heard on Boy Meets Goyand Wholly Cats. In the period between, theclarinettist had reluctantly broken up his big bandin order to deal with contracting sciatica. Herecovered well enough within a few months thathe was able to put together a new orchestra thatincluded some of his former sidemen includingCharlie Christian and Helen Forrest, while alsofeaturing former Duke Ellington trumpeter CootieWilliams and tenor-saxophonist Georgie Auld.
Count Basie guests on Wholly Cats.
The new Goodman Orchestra is in excellentform on this programme's final three numbers.
Eddie Sauter's Benny Rides Again is full ofadventure with a prominent role for drummerHarry Jaeger. Helen Forrest does a good job onher version of Ethel Waters' hit Taking A ChanceOn Love, with Fletcher Henderson providing thearrangement. Sauter's eccentric Superman is ashowcase for Cootie Williams and is one of thevery few records ever issued under BennyGoodman's name where one does not hear theclarinettist at all.
Still just 31 as 1940 drew to a close, BennyGoodman would remain a living legend and ahousehold name during the 46 years he had left,never having to step down as 'The King Of Swing'.Scott Yanow - author of nine jazz books including JazzOn Film, Swing, Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz OnRecord 1917-76