Big Bands Live: Benny Goodman

By Komara, Edward | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Big Bands Live: Benny Goodman


Komara, Edward, ARSC Journal


Big Bands Live: Benny Goodman. Jazzhaus 101732 (2 LP set).

Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet. Jazzhaus 101711. 2012 (1 CD).

Lost Tapes: Chet Baker. Early Chet: Chet Baker in Germany 1955-1959. Jazzhaus 101728 (1 CD).

Lost Tapes: Modern Jazz Quartet. Germany 1956-1958. Jazzhaus 101731. 2013 (1 CD).

In 1959 Benny Goodman (1909-1986) had enough career achievements as "The King of Swing"--the 1939 Carnegie Hall concert, the 1955 Hollywood biopic with Steve Allen as Goodman, respectable forays into classical music--to hire someone else's band as his own for short performing tours. Which is exactly what he did for his 1959 tour of Europe, hiring vibraphonist Red Norvo and his band, adding singer Anita O'Day. After spending that September in rehearsals, they embarked on a month-long sojourn through Sweden, West Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria. At least five concerts were taped for European radio rebroadcast. They bear out what Goodman discographer D. Russell Connor wrote in 1969 (BG On The Record: A Bio-Discography of Benny Goodman (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969;538-539): "They reveal Benny playing exceptionally well, as excitingly as he had played in some time. For the most part tapes of the (re)broadcasts are of excellent quality, and are recommended to collectors without reservation." The 15 October 1959 Freiburg concert issued here is especially notable for the contributions of Anita ODay, one of the great jazz singers who had established her national career in the mid-1940s bands of Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton. In her autobiography High Times, Hard Times (NY: Putnam, 1981), O'Day claimed that partway during that tour, Goodman reduced the number of her songs from five to two. Fortunately, this Freiburg concert was early enough in the itinerary for O'Day to sing six numbers, among them a scatting vocalise on "Four Brothers" that is spot-on throughout despite the fast tempo.

The good news about the Jazzhaus releases of the 1959 Goodman Freiburg concert on CD and LP is that the transfer sound is top-notch mono. The bad news is that the selection and sequencing are different. The 2-LP set has eighteen numbers, and its mp3 download contains those eighteen plus "Rachel's Dream" and "Raze [Raisin'] the Riff," with no indication as to when during the concert those two additions were played. Listings for other taped concerts of that tour are inconclusive as to whether those two pieces were played at the beginning or in the middle of the concert list, but Jazzhaus's CD version places "Raze [Raisin'] the Riff just after "Air Mail Special." Inexplicably the LP version lacks the opening number "Let's Dance," which was one of Goodman's swingera trademark tunes, but thankfully that is restored on the CD issue. Also on the CD is "Gotta Be This Or That," yet dropped were "Get Happy" "Slipped Disc," and "I Want To Be Happy"; "Rachel's Dream" is not on the CD or the LP set. So in order to have as much of this remarkable concert as Jazzhaus has prepared from the tapes, one needs to purchase both the CD and the double LP set, to download the mp3 files using the code included in the LP set, and to determine as best as one can the order of the assembled performance.

John Burks "Dizzy" Gillespie (1917-1993) was one of the great men in modern jazz: trumpet player, bandleader, style innovator in bop and Cuban jazz, musical ambassador, and mainstream pop culture personality. The history books tend to emphasize his 1940s collaborations with Charlie Parker (1920-1955) and Chano Pozo (1915-1948). But in the early 1960s Gillespie was still a potent force, recording albums for Verve and Philips, performing in Europe as part of the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert tours, and maintaining his own bands with some very promising young talent. In 1961, his sidemen were saxophonist/flutist Leo Wright, pianist Lalo Schifrin, bassist Bob Cunningham, and drummer Chuck Lamp kin. For Gillespie's late 1961 tour of West Germany, Mel Lewis substituted for Lampkin. …

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