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Swingsation: Benny Goodman

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Album Review

The vast majority of GRP's Swingsation series releases may not satisfy collectors and hardcore fans who probably already have the songs featured on most of the CDs on original albums or comprehensive collections. What sets this particular volume apart are the origins of the recordings, although that also makes them a mixed bag musically. Benny Goodman was not signed to Decca in the mid-'50s — he was on Capitol Records, but he was contracted to record the music for the Universal film The Benny Goodman Story (in which he was portrayed by Steve Allen), and Universal had the rights to release a soundtrack album (which it did, three times over, on the Decca label). That is where the recordings on this CD originated, and they constitute an odd vignette in Goodman's mid-'50s output, which usually had him reconsidering his old repertory and redefining his sound; for the occasion of the film, however, he was very specifically trying to re-create his sound of the '30s on modern state of the art equipment (and at a movie studio, whose recording facilities usually afforded a more spacious sound than record company facilities of the period). The results didn't always work, as the balances weren't ideal, at least for purists — and Goodman was, reportedly, in a foul temper during the recording of most of this material, and some of the guests that he engaged for the occasion (most notably Gene Krupa) weren't in any better a mood. (Additionally, Ziggy Elman, who was seen on-screen in the movie, wasn't able to contribute to the soundtrack, and Manny Klein subs for him here). No one was happy with the results — though the public snapped up the Decca LPs — and the band assembled here (which, in addition to Krupa, includes Buck Clayton, Stan Getz, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, and Teddy Wilson) all showed up (with Ruby Braff, to boot) on Goodman's subsequent Capitol re-recordings of this very same repertory, done five months later. Those were reportedly much happier sessions, yielding a body of music that has been re-marketed for decades as a deceptive faux-soundtrack. But some of what is here, from the movie sessions, does work, most notably "Stompin' at the Savoy," the sublimely swinging "It's Been so Long," and, most especially, "Moonglow," which is a brilliant showcase for Lionel Hampton and displays the band at its subtle, subdued peak. The remastering for this release, which features 14 of the 22 numbers recorded for Decca), has also improved the sound over the earlier CD release, which allows one to fully appreciate the best moments here. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Bruce Eder, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Whew!

I love Benny Goodman! I play the Clarinet , and I look up to Him so much!

Stompin' at the Savoy

Excellent swing dance music, reminisent of the Big Band era.

Music's great, don't buy singles

Don't buy singles from this album. I just did and got a clip that suddenly starts into the tune and then abruptly ends. REALLY disappointed.

Biography

Born: May 30, 1909 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Benny Goodman was the first celebrated bandleader of the Swing Era, dubbed "The King of Swing," his popular emergence marking the beginning of the era. He was an accomplished clarinetist whose distinctive playing gave an identity both to his big band and to the smaller units he led simultaneously. The most popular...
Full Bio