Saturday, April 08, 2023

Clarinet Worth: Swing King Driven Thing

Benny Goodman Sextet - Towson Blues

For all that remember April, we'll kick off the month by going a ways back and tracing a line through the music.

Reading about the explosion of the Big Bands in the 1930s, it's not even worth attempting to quantify the impact and lasting significance of the man we're talking about today.

I am not sure where to even start with this cat, honestly.
He should be on Mt. Rushmore of the species just for integrating his band back when the idea of such a thing must have brought death threats that make today's racial climate look like the harmonious water people in Avatar.

He was first recorded in the 1920s, but it took a move to NYC and a gradual build up to the mid-1930s for him to gather the kind of momentum that made him into someone we're speaking of with reverence 100 years hence.

It happened, or started to, in Oakland, you know. What is it about the Bay Area that lights the musical fuses for so much tight shit? I lived there 30 years and I don't even know.

If I had to speculate about Oakland in particular, there's something about the place that seems, in some fundamental way, not quite so susceptible to racially-motivated stereotyping somehow... or rather, people there resist that sort of mythologically unnecessary and counterproductive division more effectively than elsewhere.

Anyway when our hero got to Sweet's Ballroom on 20th Street in August of 1935 -- it was called McFadden's Ballroom then, and its integral role in the cross-cultural explosion of Jazz into the mainstream of American culture cannot be overestimated even now, the better part of a century later -- all Hell broke loose and the legend has it that this was the flashpoint when multiracial crowds first danced together and Swing and the Big Bands basically began to  take over music in the US.
From there, a residency at the equally-as-pivotal Palomar in L.A., and by the time Benny and his jets got back to the East Coast, his ascendancy to #1 American musician was solidified.

I can't tell the whole story here because it would take 33 Ken Burns documentaries -- minus the bourgeois whitewash job, of course -- to get it all across. The short version is that the explosion of Swing in the 1930s and 1940s brought Jazz to a whole spectrum of folks that had never accepted it before then.

It's not his birthday or anything. Just the 45th anniversary of this great tape I've always wanted to put up here, which draws a nice line from the Swing thing into the Post-Bop era (with Connie Kay from the MJQ on drums, no less) and provides a unique glimpse into what about Benny Goodman made people say Goddamn, Let's Dance! He doesn't need a birthday to be celebrated.... he's an everyday kind of universe if you ask me.

Benny Goodman Septet +1
Towson Center
Towson State University
Towson, Maryland USA

01 Runnin' Wild/band introductions
02 Here's That Rainy Day
03 Alone Together
04 Towson Blues
05 You've Changed
06 Tangerine 
07 How Long Has This Been Going On
08 That's a Plenty
09 Sunday
10 Taking a Chance On Love
11 Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone
12 Send In the Clowns
13 Don't Be That Way/Stompin' At the Savoy
14 Sing, Sing, Sing
15 Goodbye (closing theme)

Total time: 1:10:00

Benny Goodman - clarinet
Major Holley - bass & vocals
Wayne Andre - trombone
Warren Vaché - trumpet
Cal Collins - guitar
Connie Kay - drums
John Bunch - piano
Debi Craig - vocals (Tracks 10-12)

soundboard master reel
retracked, declipped, slightly remasterized & dead air edited by EN, April 2023
438 MB FLAC/direct link

What I love most about this performance is the lack of strict adherence to the style that made him so huge. Not that that vibe doesn't predominate, it's just how these guys integrate the forms that followed the Swing era that fascinates.

I'll be back soon with more Spring things -- speaking of Spring things, please check out all the groovy clothes we've been designing over here -- but for now it's a swinging idea to get next to Brother Benny  and get yer stomp on for the weekend.--J.

5.30.1909 - 6.13.1986

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