Saturday January 16, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Benny Goodman
On this Day:
Benny Goodman holds the world’s 1st jazz concert at Carnegie Hall.
Benjamin David Goodman (May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986) was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader known as the “King of Swing”.
In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in the United States. His concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 16, 1938 is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz’s ‘coming out’ party to the world of ‘respectable’ music.”
In late 1937, Goodman’s publicist Wynn Nathanson suggested that Goodman and his band play Carnegie Hall in New York City. The sold-out concert was held on the evening of January 16, 1938. It is regarded as one of the most significant in jazz history. After years of work by musicians from all over the country, jazz had finally been accepted by mainstream audiences. Recordings of the concert were made, but even by the technology of the day the equipment used was not of the finest quality. Acetate recordings of the concert were made, and aluminum studio masters were cut. “The recording was produced by Albert Marx as a special gift for his wife, Helen Ward, and a second set for Benny. He contracted Artists Recording Studio to make two sets. Artists Recording only had two turntables so they farmed out the second set to Raymond Scott’s recording studio….It was Benny’s sister-in-law who found the recordings in Benny’s apartment [in 1950] and brought them to Benny’s attention. Goodman took the discovered recording to Columbia, and a selection was issued on LP as The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.
Goodman’s bands started the careers of many jazz musicians. During an era of racial segregation, he led one of the first integrated jazz groups. He performed nearly to the end of his life while exploring an interest in classical music.
Goodman helped racial integration in America. In the early 1930s, black and white musicians could not play together in most clubs and concerts. In the Southern states, racial segregation was enforced by Jim Crow laws. Goodman hired Teddy Wilson for his trio and added vibraphonist Lionel Hampton for his quartet. In 1939 he hired guitarist Charlie Christian. This integration in music happened ten years before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s six-decade-long color line. “Goodman’s popularity was such that he could remain financially viable without touring the South, where he would have been subject to arrest for violating Jim Crow laws.” According to Jazz by Ken Burns, when someone asked him why he “played with that n*****” (referring to Teddy Wilson), Goodman replied, “I’ll knock you out if you use that word around me again”.
Goodman was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After winning polls as best jazz clarinetist, Goodman was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1957.
He was a member of the radio division of the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
His papers were donated to Yale University after his death. He received honorary doctorates from Union College, the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Bard College, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Harvard University, and Yale University (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What do you call a group of poverty law lawyers who enjoy the band U2? Pro Bono
Second, a Song:
“Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” is a 1936 song, with music and lyrics by Louis Prima, who first recorded it with the New Orleans Gang. Brunswick Records released it on February 28, 1936 on the 78 rpm record format, with “It’s Been So Long” as the B-side. The song is strongly identified with the big band and swing eras. Several have performed the piece as an instrumental, including Fletcher Henderson and, most famously, Benny Goodman.
On July 6, 1937, “Sing, Sing, Sing” was recorded in Hollywood with Benny Goodman on clarinet; Harry James, Ziggy Elman, and Chris Griffin on trumpets; Red Ballard and Murray McEachern on trombones; Hymie Schertzer and George Koenig on alto saxophones; Art Rollini and Vido Musso on tenor saxophone; Jess Stacy on piano; Allan Reuss on guitar; Harry Goodman on bass; and Gene Krupa on drums. The song was arranged by Jimmy Mundy. Unlike most big band arrangements of that era, limited in length to three minutes so that they could be recorded on one side of a standard 10-inch 78-rpm record, the version which Goodman’s band recorded was an extended work. The 1937 recording lasted 8 min 43 seconds, and it took up both sides of a 12-inch 78. The recording of Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall live performance (with impromptu solos) took 12 minutes and 30 seconds. Mundy’s arrangement incorporated “Christopher Columbus”, a piece written by Chu Berry for the Fletcher Henderson band, as well as Prima’s work. Fletcher Henderson recorded a vocal version in August, 1936.The 1937 Benny Goodman recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1982.
Swing Kids is a 1993 American dramatic film directed by Thomas Carter and starring Christian Bale, Robert Sean Leonard and Frank Whaley. In pre-World War II Germany, two high school students, Peter Müller and Thomas Berger, attempt to be swing kids by night and Hitler Youth by day, a decision that acutely impacts their friends and families.
In the 1930s, some young German teens favored American and British pop culture; they hung out in secret underground clubs where bands played swing music and listened to contemporary music by acts like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. The film’s screenwriter, Jonathan Marc Feldman, based the film on this eponymous Swing Kids movement (per Wikipedia).
Editor’s Historical Note: All the characters you see in the dance hall are supposed to be German. These are all people defying Hitler’s orders to not dance nor listen to American or Jewish composed music, of which Benny Goodman was both. Hitler ordered the replacement of all the swing music with Patriotic or other German music. The kids refused and many were subsequently arrested and forced into the military or labor camps.
Here is a scene from the movie Swing Kids with the kids dancing to “Sing Sing Sing”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“If a guy’s got it, let him give it. I’m selling music, not prejudice.” – Benny Goodman
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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